<Theatre Mirror Review>"Kiss Me, Kate!" "KISS ME, KATE!">

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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Kiss Me, Kate!"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Reagle Music Theatre's second show of their 47th summer season is "Kiss Me Kate" by Cole Porter which is a play within a play about the lives of egotistical actor-producer-director Fred Graham and his temperamental co-star and ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi in a production of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew." Porter's score freely borrows Shakespeare's dialogue for the lyrics in the musical numbers that take place "onstage". However he uses contemporary syntax for the back stage numbers. The original Broadway show opened on December 30, 1948 and ran  for 1077 performances. It won 5 Tony Awards including "Best Book", "Best Score" and "Best Musical". Each of the cast member's onstage life is complicated by their offstage antics which leads to many comical situations. This version is directed by Cynthia Thole who did a bang up job on "Me and My Girl" last year, musically directed by Dan Rodriguez with his 19 piece orchestra conducted by Jeff Leonard and astounding choreography by  Susan Chebookjian. Their expertise creates a high energy musical hit that audiences can savor and enjoy. They are rewarded with a standing ovation by the enthusiastic crowd on a job very well done.

Cynthia has keen insight into these characters while Dan brings out the best in the vocalists especially impressive is the harmony in Cantiamo D'Amore. The orchestra is fantastic especially the trumpet rifts during "Where Thine That Special Face." Susan's choreography is phenomenal and her performers execute her many styles of dances in perfect unison. The gorgeous and plentiful costumes are by Costume World Theatrical while the astounding set is by Richard Schreiber. The leading role of Fred is played by Rick Hilsabeck who last played Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady" in 2012. He is hilarious as this pompous producer ranting and raving at everyone around him. Rick displays his powerful baritone voice in many numbers with "Were Thine That Special Face", "I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua'', and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led" as standout solo numbers and his closing of Act 1 "Kiss Me Kate" is a rousing number, too. His argument scenes with his real life wife, Sarah sizzle and crackle with high intensity. Rick's strong stage presence comes through when he is playing Fred as well as Petruchio. His upper range in his numbers is stunning, too. Sarah Pfisterer returns in triumph as the haughty diva Lilli, doing an excellent job. She usually plays sweet and demure roles like Marian from "The Music Man" or Maria from "The Sound of Music" but this role displays her acting prowess as a force to be reckoned with as Kate the Shrew as well as Lilli. Her fabulous soprano voice is heard in her duets with Rick called "Wunderbar" and "So in Love" as they reminisce about the old days. Sarah's solos sparkle too including "So in Love", "I Hate Men" where she throws things and "I Am Ashamed Women Are So Simple" where she finally acquiesces to Petruchio. Sarah's splendid voice soars up to the stratosphere with a high C. I first reviewed Sarah as Marian back in 2004 at Reagle. It's marvelous to have Sarah and Rick back at Reagle once again this 47th anniversary season.P> The roguish gambler Bill Calhoun is excellently played by singing and dancing sensation, Kevin Patrick Martin whom I have been reviewing since he was 12 years old in "Fiddler on the Roof" back in 1999. He dances up a storm in this role as he leads the dancers in several chorus numbers including the opening of Act 1. He also does a bang up job in his solo "Bianca" as well as in the show stopping trio "Tom, Dick or Harry" with Noah Carmel as Hortensio and Connor Fallon as Gremio who also have astounding voices. Kevin's solo dance is reminiscent of a young Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. Bill's constantly flirting girl friend, Lois Lane is splendidly played by the gorgeous, statuesque blonde Lisa Dempsey. She has many comic moments as Bianca especially the "Tom, Dick or Harry" song with the trio of suitors. Her other show stopping numbers include "Why Can't You Behave?" and "Always True to You" which turns into an energetic dance number. Lois flirts a lot with Fred and the General. Lisa is marvelous in this role and her interactions with the cast are topnotch, too.

The musical opens with "Another Openin' Another Show" belted out perfectly by Lovely Hoffman who leads the cast in this dynamic opening number. Whirling dervish and excellent vocalist Darren Bunch leads the chorus in "Too Darn Hot" to open Act 2. It stops the show with Susan's brilliant choreography. I first reviewed Darren in "Les Miserables" for Uncommon Theatre back in 2009. His dancing prowess in this number is reminiscent of a young Ben Vereen. The biggest scene stealers in this show are Aaron Dore and Daniel Forest Sullivan as the two gangsters who get to sing and dance in "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" where they get to mangle the title's of Shakespeare's plays with their Brooklyn accents. They are comic perfection as these two wacky hoodlums and stop the show with their song and dance. The pompous Douglas MacArthur type general is well played by Rich Allegretto. He and Sarah display their voices in "From This Moment On" and he makes this over the top womanizer buffoon comical. So a phenomenal version of "Kiss Me Kate", be sure to catch Reagle Music Theatre's production where you get a Broadway show in Waltham, MA that rivals any you see in NYC.

"Kiss Me, Kate!" (9 - 19 July)
@ 617 Robinson Street, WALTHAM MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide