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Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Kiss Me, Kate
By Lydia Gompper, 11th grade, George Mason High School
The musical, like all art forms, is a constantly evolving entity. In 2015, with the most popular shows on Broadway, including a multicultural rap musical about one of America’s founding fathers, it is clear that modern theatre is, both in form and theme, a far cry from the jaunty melodies and romance of the early twentieth century. However, in the face of such constant reinvention, perhaps it is the perfect time to revisit shows that were, in the days they were written, just as wonderfully innovative and risqué as anything we are producing today.
For anyone who may have a craving for a timeless, romantic, naughtily good time, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Kiss Me, Kate should not be missed. Directed by Alan Paul, it is a refreshing throwback to everything one could love from the Broadway of yore, including a fiery cast of triple-threats, show-stopping vocal numbers, and witty, suggestive humor.
Written as an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kiss Me, Kate arrived on Broadway in 1948 alongside a surge of “integrated” musicals (musicals in which the songs are directly connected to the script). Kiss Me, Kate tells the story of the formerly married actors Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham as they come together to perform The Taming of the Shrew, their first mutual production since their divorce. Their volatile personalities clash as romantic confusion and bitterness threaten to disrupt their performance. Meanwhile, newcomer to the stage Lois Lane engages in a lighthearted, sensual romance with gambler Bill Calhoun.
Christine Sherrill and Douglas Sills were spectacular as Vanessi and Graham, respectively. Their passionate, multi-layered antagonism and tension were delightful, and the build-up to when they ultimately came together with a kiss was incredibly fun. Sherrill possessed a fantastically strong, multifaceted voice. She showed off both an excellent depth of emotion during her slower number, “So in Love,” and a feisty, humorous side during the hilarious “I Hate Men.” Her acting was similarly lovely, with her character displaying both the poise of a well-respected performer and a catastrophic explosiveness. Sills, meanwhile, handled
his position as the show’s leading man remarkably well. His sense of humor was impeccable, and his character was at once awfully egotistical and womanizing, and oddly likeable. His powerful, charming voice stood out in such solo numbers as “Were Thine That Special Face” and “Where Is the Life That Late I Led?”
Highly notable amongst the supporting cast was Robyn Hurder as the young, sexy Lois Lane. Hurder was an instant favorite of the audience, garnering impressive recognition for her performances in such numbers as “Tom, Dick, or Harry” and “Always True to You in My Fashion.” Her belt was truly outstanding, and she gave a fun, jazzy showing in her every solo. On the basis of pure, jovial entertainment, she was certainly a scene stealer. Her romantic counterpart Clyde Alves, in the role of Bill Calhoun, was most notable for his truly extraordinary dancing and suave charm, as demonstrated in his solo, “Bianca.”
In such a spirited, sensual production, a job of incredible importance fell on the shoulders of choreographer Michele Lynch. She did not disappoint. The show’s dancing alternated beautifully between bright buoyancy and delicious sensuality. Group dance numbers such as “Too Darn Hot” were among the show’s strongest moments.
Although written in the 1940s, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Kiss Me, Kate did not feel outdated for a minute. With a timeless story of love and passion that has enthralled audiences from Shakespeare’s time into the modern era, it is the perfect night out for any musical lover.
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.