Written by Sam & Bella Spewak
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by John Doyle
Choreographed by Tracey Flye
Musical direction by Franklin Brasz
Performed by Juan Chioran, Monique Lund, Chilena Kennedy, Steve Ross, Cliff Saunders.
April 10 to October 30, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
The Taming of Kiss Me, Kate
Director John Doyle does not tame this production of Kiss Me, Kate, which just opened at the Stratford Festival. In fact, The Taming of the Shrew, which is the play inside the play, is way over the top. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of fun and makes a very enjoyable evening of entertainment.
A really dreadful acting company is putting on a musical version of Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew in Baltimore, with the hopes of taking it to Broadway. But the starring couple are recently divorced, and fighting with each other back stage, which of course spills out into their show, with some great slap-stick comedy. The set for their production of The Taming the Shrew is outrageous, with the craziest props in wild colours, which complement their unbelievably exaggerated Shakespearean costumes, also in vivid colours.
Monique Lund plays Lilli Vaness who in turn is the Kate (Katherine) of Kiss Me, Kate. Her physical comedy is reminiscent of Sandra Bullock. She sprawls on a stepladder making hilarious faces, and in another scene she slithers down the steps and rolls away to avoid being seen. Her antics are uproarious and nearly stop the show.
Juan Chioran is Fred Graham, and plays Petruchio. He creates humour as a pretentious actor, and plays off his co-star’s antics very well.
Chilina Kennedy nearly steals the show as Lois Lane/Bianca. She was brilliant last year as Maria in West Side Story, and amusing in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Here she plays the dumb chick really well, and gets laughs when she struts around in the aisles, mumbling comments under her breath that only the audience in that area can hear.
Also stealing the scenes they’re in are Steve Ross and Cliff Sanders as the tough guys trying to collect a debt. In order to keep an eye on things, they go on stage during the show. Each time we see them, they’ve added another item of Elizabethan costume. When they sing Brush Up Your Shakespeare, the laughter is side-splitting.
The choreography in the big dance number Too Darn Hot is brilliant. The cast members wear their under things, as they are not ready to get dressed for show. One can almost feel Baltimore’s steamy heat in this number.
The show is just for fun – if you are only expecting laughs, you’ll get them. This production goes over the top, so don’t expect anything deep. Go, enjoy, and laugh a lot!
Kiss Me, Kate continues at the Festival Theatre, Stratford until October 30. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-567-1600 or check www.stratfordshakespearefestival.ca.