BWW Reviews: KISS ME KATE Will Leave You Feeling Amorous
There are some shows that are ageless. Kiss Me Kate is one of them. The Cole Porter musical, while 67 years young, still entertains with ease, and Texas State University's current production of it showcases all that makes the show great.
Kiss Me Kate is equal parts a backstage farce and a reimagining of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The show takes place on the opening night of a pre-Broadway tryout of a musical adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, directed by and starring Fred Graham (Gabriel Bernal). Graham's co-stars are his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Elizabeth Brady) and nightclub performers Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun (Sydney Roberts Goodwin and Junior Gomez). Both couples have some conflicts off-stage which mirror their on-stage characters.
The show, which won the first ever Tony Award for Best Musical, features some of Porter's best work. Several of its songs-particularly the Act One opener "Another Op'nin', Another Show" and the Act Two opener, "Too Darn Hot"-are immediately recognizable, and all of the songs have some of Porters best and funniest lyrics. The book, by Samuel and Bella Spewack, is ridiculously funny as well.
Director/Choreographer Cassie Abate and her incredible cast consistently highlight all the material has to offer. Abate's choreography is far more challenging than what is normally seen on a college stage. The major production numbers are Broadway caliber, and the entire cast executes it like seasoned professionals. Abate brings the same polish and precision to her direction which finds comedic moments even in the show's few throwaway songs.
The cast shines just as brightly as Abate's take on the material. There's a sweet, boy-next-door innocence to Junior Gomez's portrayal of Bill, and Sydney Roberts Goodwin gets laugh after laugh as the beautiful but ditzy Lois. Elizabeth Brady nails the poise, grace, and cutting wit of Lilli, but she truly excels during her comedic moments, particularly her solo number, "I Hate Men."
The show also features a slew of sensational supporting players. Maggie Bera and Johnny Brantley III may not get a lot of scene work as two personal assistants to the leads, but they do get to lead the act openers. When they're in the spotlight, it's impossible to keep your eyes off them. Thomas Miller and Matthew Drake Shrader are hilarious as two gangsters are at the theater to collect on a gambling debt, and their big number, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" has the audience smiling for five minutes straight. Adria Swan also gets plenty of laughs as the extremely dry and emotionless stage manager.
But it's Gabriel Bernal as Fred that proves to be the production's biggest asset. Fred has to be charming, handsome and funny with a powerful baritone voice. Bernal's got it all, and he makes it look effortless. He may be occupying a role played by the likes of Alfred Drake, Howard Keel, Brent Barrett, and Brian Stokes Mitchell, but he's certainly not in their shadow.
KISS ME KATE plays the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre at Texas State University now thru April 26th. Performances are Tuesday thru Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm and 7:30pm. Tickets are $8-$15. For tickets and information, please visit http://www.theatreanddance.txstate.edu