The Bristol Theatre Company's summer production is the Cole Porter musical, "Kiss Me Kate" which is a play within a play that follows the lives of egotistical actor-producer Fred Graham and his tempermental co-star and ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi in a production of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew". Porter's score borrows freely from Shakespeare's dialogue for lyrics in the musical numbers that take place "onstage" but makes ues of more modern syntax in the "backstage" numbers. The original Broadway production opened on December 30, 1948. It won 5 Tony Awards including "Best Musical", "Best Script" and "Best Score" and ran for 1077 performances. This version is directed by Julibeth Andrews, musically directed by Ryan DeWolfe with choreography by Diane Campagna and has a cast of 26 with the 2 gangsters in the show stealing every single scene they appear in, creating a laugh riot with both their performances. The plentiful,colorful and gorgeous Shakespearean costumes are provided by Anne Marie's Costumes in Achusnet, MA and the beautiful Fountain sculpture in the middle of the set was created by Cindy Mellor-Neale from Rhode Island School of Design.
The lead role of Fred is played by John Andrews who has a powerful voice and strong acting presence.( However at the second night's performance a couple of funny lines from two of his numbers, ""I've Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua" and "Where Is The Life That Late I Led" were lost and several of his lines of his dialogue were stumbled over. Hopefully this was a one time occurence and will be rectified as the show goes on.) The haughty Lilli is played by Janine Weisman who is a whirling dervish in the role of the shrew on and backstage. Her best number is "I Hate Men" which brought much laughter from the crowd. She throws things and swears like a trooper where she definitely captures Kate, the shrew. The gambler, Bill who is pursued by the two gangsters is played by talented dancer, Ian Richardson who gets to show off his singing voice in "Bianca" the tap dancing number with girls and in the trio "Tom, Dick or Harry" with Nick Potvin as Gremio and Jack Stupinski as Hortensio. His constantly flirting girlfriend, Lois Lane played Amy Sheehan sings the above number with the boys and handles "Why Can't I Behave" and "Always True to You" with Ian. Amy shows off a strong dancing ability in this show and the strong dance numbers by Diane are well executed by the whole cast.
The two outstanding members of this cast are Ed Carusi and Greg Geer as the two gangsters who sing, act and dance up a storm in this show. They bring the humor of the roles out perfectly and their "Shrew" outfits are hilarious to look at, too. Their "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" is a show stopping number and after the three choruses of the song the applause takes a long time to wind down. By the end of the number they are wearing top hats and dance with canes leading to the big finish. Bravo on a job well done. (The curtain call was a let down because the leads didn't get their own bows. It was an ensemble bow but the show is not an ensemble show and the leads should have received their own bow.) Katie Manchester leads the chorus in "Another Openin', Another Show" to start the night off while James Murphy shows off his powerhouse voice in the second Act opening number with the dancing chorus in "Too Darn Hot". The third scene stealer of the night was Jamie Schiff who plays Lilli's loud mouth, pompous womanizing beau, General Harrison Howell. "Kiss Me Kate" runs for one more weekend at the Performing Arts Center at RWU in Bristol, RI.