Teen Critic: Kiss Me, Kate

The Teen Critic Program at Shakespeare Theatre Company allows high school students interested in theatre, journalism and/or critical writing the opportunity to learn how to view productions with a critical eye and write a savvy, persuasive theatre review. The Teen Critics attend each production, receive a press packet, preferred press seating and have the opportunity to meet with professional theatre critics from local newspapers before writing their own reviews.

Over the season you’ll have the chance to get to know the Teen Critics through whole and excerpted reviews. Below are selections from their Kiss Me, Kate reviews.

Mae Gilligan, 10th Grade, Montgomery Blair High School

The Shakespeare Theatre Company is finally making it acceptable for adults to watch cartoons. The gigantic set pieces and Technicolor costumes of their production of Kiss Me, Kate espouse an old-school Disney-vibe, making the production a visual feast composed entirely of dessert.

That doesn’t mean the dancing and singing aren’t treats in their own right. The show is just what you want from your musical: an entertaining, pretty romp that you might have seen before, but don’t mind (very much) seeing again. When you feel yourself lagging, or Kiss Me, Katepraying for a twist, along comes another song to pick you up.

Emma Skinner, 9th Grade, George C Marshall High School

The first thing that stands out about this production is the lead actors, who play four members of the acting troupe. At different points in the show, each has to hold the attention of the audience for an entire musical number, often on a stage empty of other actors. Christine Sherrill, singing the comic number “I Hate Men” during the mock-production of The Taming Of The Shrew, is funny and believable in her acting. Similarly, Douglas Sills is able to keep all eyes on him when he sings “Where Is The Life That Late I Led,” and the range of emotion that he shows throughout the show is very impressive. In addition, all four leads have great comic sensibility. The jokes that they make are timed perfectly and constructed perfectly. The cast may be the brightest thing about the production—it is evident that they are putting their hearts into every inch of the two-and-a-half-hour show, which never slows down in pace.

Jack LaFleur, 11th Grade, Georgetown Day School

Right from the beginning, with the song “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” the cast shows the great talent they have. In particular, Hattie (played by Zonya Love) shines in this song.Kiss Me, Kate She’s just one of the many minor characters who are portrayed so compellingly that I wish I could have seen more of them. (Even without speaking roles, the cast still manages to stand out. I want to give a special mention to ensemble member Alfie Parker, Jr. for the moment where he hides behind the stage curtain in fear.) This brings me to the topic of the First Man and Second Man (Bob Ari and Raymond Jaramillo McLeod), who are to me the epitome of compelling minor characters. They adapt effortlessly when thrust into the production of The Taming of the Shrew around which Kiss Me, Kate centers, but where did they acquire such theatrical talent? I was excited when I saw in the program that they had a number all to themselves, but despite the fact that the song in question — “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” — was excellent, it gave away none of the secrets of the two Men’s past. Proposition to Shakespeare Theatre Company: produce a play focusing solely on these two. First Man and Second Man Are Dead, if you will. I would eagerly attend.

Missy Hamblet, 12th Grade, homeschool

Almost as enjoyable to watch are the two mob men, played by Bob Ari and Raymond Jaramillo McLeod. Fully embodying the “mob men for the whole family” trope, Ari and McLeod play perhaps the most fun roles in the show. Having the burly, fumbling gangsters try to blend in with the loud musical theatre crowd gives plenty of opportunity for comical and oddly endearing incidents. A fan-favorite is the moment when they are abandoned onstage and forced to slide into song and dance to save face.

Kiss Me, Kate

Tara McLaughlin, 9th Grade, The Potomac School

The sheer amount of costume pieces that had to be made is a feat in itself. Not only did most characters have more than one costume, but they were all well constructed. Just like the set design, the costume designer, Alejo Vietti, took on a huge challenge and executed it fantastically.  One thing I thought was particularly interesting was that the costumes for The Taming of the Shrew were typical Shakespearean period pieces, and the set was simple, and obviously two dimensional cut outs, whereas the set of the theatre for The Taming of the Shrew was complex and realistic. That difference made the show feel more real and made it visually easier to tell what story you were watching. Great performers and artists joined together in this incredible production of Kiss Me, Kate.