KISS ME, KATE to Open 9/14 at Barter Theatre
It stars Barter Resident Actors Hannah Ingram and Nick Koesters as actors Lilli and Fred. Fred is a theatre director who happens to be Lilli's ex-husband.
Fred's theatre has hired both Lilli and Fred to play the leads in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," Kate and Petruchio, and sparks fly, both on stage and off, as Lilli lives up to her reputation of being difficult to work with.
It's opening night and a fight between these two stubborn ex-lovers threatens the entire production. Then add two gangsters (Rick McVey and Michael Poisson), a mistaken identity, a pending marriage and a little side action and shake it all up for one hot musical. Can these two former lovers reconcile long enough to make it to the curtain call?
When originally staged, the show picked up five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Book, and Original Score. Later, the 1999 Broadway revival picked up five more, and "Kiss Me, Kate" set the bar for successful Broadway musicals. An album of Cole Porter's music revived the love of his work even further and earned him a new generation of followers.
"Kiss Me, Kate" includes songs such as "Another Op'nin', Another Show," "Wunderbar" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
Barter Resident Actors in "Kiss Me, Kate" include Sean Campos, Abbey C. Elliot, Justin Tyler Lewis, Andrew Slane and Holly Williams. Director John Briggs returns to Barter Theatre where he also directed "Idols of the King" (twice), "Smoke on the Mountain" and "Almost Heaven."
Audiences have always loved the witty banter and delightful Cole Porter music, but some aspects of the story might seem a little bit dated. In the 1940s, no one blinked an eye at Lilli/Kate being "taught a lesson" and scolded by Fred/Petruchio. Barter's production is exciting because it treats Fred and Lilli like real, flawed humans, who perhaps both need to learn a lesson about life.
"I have come up with a way to let the Fred/Petruchio character realize his boorishness, and for the Lilli/Kate character to admit her love for her art and for Fred, which allows the audience to see the growth and acceptance of these characters, thereby celebrating in their discovery-including the women of the audience," said Briggs.
Written in 1948, fifteen years after the founding of Barter Theatre, "Kiss Me, Kate" includes a line about Barter Theatre. Fred and Lilli reminisce about playing at the Barter Theatre in Virginia and then getting paid with a ham.
Audiences at the revival of the show applauded the Barter reference at almost every performance.
"With it being Barter's 80th Birthday, it seemed appropriate to do a major revival of this wonderfully entertaining musical on the main stage for the first time ever," said Richard Rose, producing artistic director.
"Kiss Me, Kate" is made possible by corporate sponsors Wellmont Health Systems and Highlands Union Bank and media sponsors WCYB, VIP Seen Tri-Cities and Lamar. Barter Theatre is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission of the Arts.