The current production of Norton Singers is the Cole Porter musical, "Kiss Me Kate" which is a play within a play that follows 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 borrows freely from Shakespeare's dialogue for the lyrics in 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 5 Tony Awards including "Best Musical", "Best Script" and "Best Score". This version is directed by Ted Mitchell, musically directed by Tony Torelli with his wonderful 23 piece orchestra and excellently choreographed by Judee and Courtney Bottomley and boasts a cast of 36. The plentiful, colorful and gorgeous costumes are by Daniel Kozar and the two story set and sliding on and off set pieces are by Pete Molitor.
The leading role of Fred is played by Kevin Mischley who played the lead in ''Jekyll and Hyde'' two years ago and played Will Parker in ''Oklahoma'' last year for Norton Singers. His powerful voice soars in his numbers with "Were Thine That Special Face" and "Where Is The Life That Late I Led" as standouts. The latter one is done as Kevin comes into the audience where his splendid voice can be heard up close.His wonderful stage presence is felt as Fred and Petruchio. The haughty Lilli is played by Carey Fisher who played Laurey in the company's "Oklahoma" last year. Her diva like behavior comes through from her very first entrance and continues with her backstage and onstage characters. Her gorgeous soprano voice can be heard in her duet with Kevin called "Wunderbar" and in her solo numbers "So In Love", "I Hate Men" (where she throws things as Kate, the shrew) and in "I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple". The gambler Bill is played by Joseph Arsenault, who played Slim in "Oklahoma" and is one of the best dancers in this show. He does the dance lead in "Too Darn Hot" with a multitude of dancing girls and does many acrobatic moves and soft shoe dance in "Bianca" which takes the audience's breath away. One of the best numbers in the show is a trio song and dance called "Tom, Dick or Harry" where the suitors chase after Bianca on their knees. (The two other suitors are well played by Daniel Gravely as Hortensio and Dominque Doiron.) His constantly flirting girlfriend, Lois Lane is played by Courtney Bottomley who played Ado Annie in "Oklahoma" and also choreographed this show with her mom, Judee. Their inventive and energetic dance numbers give the show the needed oomph and are wonderfully executed by everyone. Courtney sings the lead with her suitors in "Tom, Dick or Harry" and solos on "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True To You" which turns into a splendid dance number as Joseph constantly runs in and out the dressing room in various degrees of undress while changing his costume. Courtney is a whirling dervish in this number running up and down the two story staircase and finally finishing the dance perched on a moving coat rack. Judee Bottomley as Hattie gets to show off her voice and dancing skills in this show by singing the lead in "Another Opening, Another Show" and in "Too Darn Hot" where she dances up a storm with Joseph and the girls in a breath taking dance routine.
The biggest scene stealer in this show is Bob Molitor who plays Ralph, the stage manager. He has the best one liners in the show and he makes everyone one of them hit pay dirt. Other humorous performers are Eric Kahn and Ted Koban as the two gangsters who get to sing and dance in "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" where they mangle the title's of the plays with their Brooklyn hoodlum accents. The pompous Douglas MacArthur type general who is Lilli's new beau, General Harrison Howell is played by Peter Molitor who played the evil, Jud in "Oklahoma". His over the top playing of this womanizing buffoon earns him many laughs and he gets to sing "From This Moment On" with Carey in the second act. Ken Butler stage manages this enormous production, keeping all the performers on their toes and making sure scene changes run smoothly. So for a trip back to the 1940's, catch "Kiss Me Kate" at Norton Singers.