note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Cole Porter must have had a grand old time writing the music for KISS ME KATE. Practically every song in the musical is now considered a standard. Porter’s sophisticated style and devilish wit infuse every lyric. And the LYRIC STAGE COMPANY production (playing through Oct. 10th) puts over the songs like gangbusters.
Speaking of thugs, book writers Sam and Bella Spewack hustle two adorable enforcers on stage (for Porter’s inimitable “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”) in the middle of a performance of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. It matters little if you’ve forgotten the Shakespeare plot. In two minutes of verbal sparring, it becomes evident that the actors portraying Kate and Petruchio (the romantic opponents in the play within the play) were once married…and may still carry the proverbial torch despite their vitriol.
Act I takes a while to establish all the set-ups which, in director Spiro Veloudos’ cheeky production, will pay off spectacularly in Act II. It’s worth the wait and while you’re waiting, you’re treated to Ilyse Robbins’ inventive choreography. Although it’s danced on a postage stamp, it seems positively expansive.
Veloudos and company have tweaked the script a bit and introduced some nifty presidential and military allusions (always in the spirit of the original) with a star turn for Timothy John Smith as a pompous four-star general. Smith’s all out assault on the sentimental “From This Moment On” is a show stopper.
Amelia Broome gets a righteous uppercut for womankind in her cocky “I Hate Men.” The object of her disaffection is Peter Davenport as her ex, in a performance which soars from their duet, “Wunderbar” to his nonpareil delivery of “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?” (That song is one of my favorites and Davenport acted and sang it better than anyone I’ve seen yet.)
Michele DeLuca does in fact “glitter naturally.” It’s no wonder R. Patrick Ryan falls for her, in both roles. You couldn’t have a better opener for the musical than Mary Callanan introducing the cast in “Another Op’nin’, Another Show.” Neil A. Casey and J.T. Turner as stage struck goons make crime pay and the rest of the cast, under Jonathan Goldberg’s musical direction, make this KISS ME KATE sparkle.