The last show of Walpole Footlighters 91st season is the Cole Porter musical "Kiss Me Kate" which is a play within a play. It follows the lives of egotistical actor-producer-director Fred Graham and his temperamental co-star and ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi in a production of "Taming of the Shrew" by Shakespeare. Porter's score borrows freely from Shakespeare's dialogue for the lyrics for the musical numbers that take place "onstage" but makes use of contemporary syntax in the backstage numbers. The original Broadway production opened on December 30, 1948 and ran for 1077 performances. It won five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Script and Best Score. Each of the cast member's onstage life is complicated by their offstage antics This version is directed by Colleen Lavery, musically directed by Danielle Clougher and choreographed by Lisa Kelleher. The plentiful and colorful costumes are by Kate Smith and the topnotch set by Jim Gross.
Colleen does an amazing job in her debut as a director. They obtain stunning performances from their hard working cast with their acting, singing and dancing.The leading role of Fred is wonderfully played by Ken Golnar. He sells all his numbers with "Were Thine That Special Face" and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led" as the standout ones. The argument scenes with Rachel sizzle and crackle with high intensity. His wonderful stage presence can be seen when he is Fred as well as Petruchio. The haughty Lilli is excellently played by Rachel Parkman. Her diva like behavior comes through from her very first entrance and continues while playing both Lilli and Kate, the shrew. Her gorgeous soprano voice is heard in her duet with Ken called "Wunderbar" as well as in her solos "So In Love", "I Hate Men" where she throws things as Kate and finally in "I Am Ashamed That Woman Are So Simple." Rachel captures the essence of this character splendidly and her superb voice reaches the stratsophere with a high C. I first reviewed Rachel and her son, Nate back in 2004 in "Scrooge" at MMAS.
The gambler Bill is well played by Joe Rich who dances up a storm in this role. He and Ashley as Lois lead the dancers in "Too Darn Hot" and does a topnotch job with his solo "Bianca" while doing a soft shoe dance to it. Joe also sings the show stopping trio number called "Tom, Dick or Harry'' with Patrick Murphy as Hortensio and Eric Lightbody as Gremio. His constantly flirting girlfriend Lois Lane is excellently played by Ashley Harmon. She has many comic moments as Bianca especially the "Tom, Dick or Harry" song with her suitors. Her other show stopping songs include "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True to You" which turns into an energetic dance number. Lois also flirts with Fred and the General.
Elaine Sheffield Bono displays her voice and dance skills as Hattie in "Another Openin'' and "Too Darn Hot" where she dances up a storm. The biggest scene stealers are Peter Bradley and PeterMcElhinney as the gangsters who get to sing and dance to the hilarious "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" where they mangle all the titles with their hoodlum accents. The pompous Douglas MacArthur type General Harrison Howell who is Lilli's new beau is wonderfully played by Michael Dornish. His over the top womanizing buffoon earns him much laughter and he displays his voice with Rachel in "From this Moment On" in the second act. Kudos to the whole cast and crew on a job well done. Especially impressive is the smooth scene changes. A word of praise to Patrick Murphy for doing a dynamic song and dance routine to "Too Darn Hot." So for a trip back to the 1940's with fabulous Cole Porter tunes, be sure to catch "Kiss Me Kate" before the show dances its way out of town.