BWW Review: KISS ME, KATE at Ankeny Community Theatre: This Production is 'Too Darn Hot'!

BWW Review: KISS ME, KATE at Ankeny Community Theatre: This Production is 'Too Darn Hot'!
Ashley Rogers as Lois Lane
Nicholas Root as Bill Calhoun

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to see Ankeny Community Theatre's sizzling production of Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate." Ankeny has done a great job getting the word out about this production. The tickets are hot and sold out for both the performance I was at on Saturday as well the matinee on Sunday. Not only is this production one of the hottest tickets in town, it also has amazing performances that transcend the material.

If you aren't familiar with "Kiss Me, Kate," here is a quick rundown. To understand the period of the show, "Kiss Me, Kate" was Cole Porter's response to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!". Ironically, both shows are playing on Broadway this season and competing for best revival of a musical. "Kiss me, Kate" takes us backstage at a production of a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Taming of The Shrew." The show revolves around Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi who are playing Petruchio and Katherine, who spar throughout the show similarly to their characters in "The Taming of the Shrew." There is also a second love interest in the show between Bill Calhoun and Lois Lane who in "Shrew" play Lucentio and Bianca.

BWW Review: KISS ME, KATE at Ankeny Community Theatre: This Production is 'Too Darn Hot'!
Ashley Rogers as Lois Lane

While there were many Great Performances in "Kiss Me Kate," there were a few who I felt really elevated the material and brought something special to the show. The first is Ashley Rogers, who plays the roles of Lois Lane and Bianca. She catches your attention as soon as she starts to sing. Her singing voice has a classical quality to it and reminded me of a mix of a young Judy Garland and Liza Minelli. Her singing was one of the highlights of this production. Despite being new to the Des Moines theatre scene, she is making a splash with this performance and theatres should keep an eye on her. If she isn't the lead in a show soon, it would be a travesty.

I do feel that it is important to give credit to Alison Buechler who played Lilli/Katherine. From the cast list in the program, she started the show as part of the ensemble, but there was an insert in the program telling that she was now playing Lilli. I'm not sure how long she had to learn this role, but it must not have been much time as it had only been since sending the program to the printers. Having a few months to learn a show can be difficult, but learning it in a few weeks takes a tremendously talented performer. I thought she did an amazing job with the time that she had.

BWW Review: KISS ME, KATE at Ankeny Community Theatre: This Production is 'Too Darn Hot'!
Mitchell Nieland as Paul
Allison Bollinger as Hattie

Another performance that stood out to me was Mitchell Nieland as Paul/Gremio. He is another up and coming performer in Des Moines who theatres should be keeping an eye out for. Seeing his bio, he has mostly been in the ensemble for shows, and had a few small roles. After seeing "Kiss Me, Kate," I have a feeling that will be changing soon. I appreciated that when he was able to always grab the audience attention but not take away from the main action of the scene. His opportunity to shine came with one of my favorite songs, "Too Darn Hot." He has the capability to handle larger roles, and when given a chance, can give one of the most memorable performances in a show.

A show cannot stand alone with just actors. It also needs to be elevated by the tech in the show. If you haven't been to an Ankeny production, they have a smaller stage which means that the designers have to get creative with their sets. For the most part, I feel that Charissa Hamel, who also directed the show, did a great job coming up with a creative way to tell the story through the set.

Overall, "Kiss Me, Kate" is a production that you don't want to miss. It has found creative ways to tell the story and also has a cast that elevates the material that they have. "Kiss Me, Kate" will continue performances April 11-13 at 7:30 PM, before closing their run on Sunday, April 14 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors ages 60 and up, and $15 for students. To find out more about "Kiss Me, Kate," or Ankeny Community theatre, visit https://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com/

BWW Review: KISS ME, KATE at Ankeny Community Theatre: This Production is 'Too Darn Hot'!
Shawn Pavlik as Gangster #1
Lou Ramsey as Gangster #2

Coming up next for Ankeny is a studio production of "Proof" which runs April 25-28 for one weekend only. Ankeny has also announced their 38th season of not to be missed productions.

Mainstage Series

"Mom's Gift"
By Phillip Olson
September 27-October 6, 2019

"A Christmas Story"
By Phillip Grecian
December 6-15, 2019

"Don't Dress for Dinner"
By Marc Camolitti
Adapted by Robin Hawdon
February 7-16, 2020

"A Piece of My Heart"
By Shirley Lauro
March 27-April 5, 2020

"The Wizard of Oz"
By L Frank Baum
With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg
Background Music by Herbert Stolhard
June 5-14, 2020

Marjorie Prime
By Jordan Harrison
August 7-16, 2020

Studio Series

"'Night, Mother"
By Marsha Norman
October 31-November 3, 2019

Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit
By Jonathan Rand
January 18-20, 2020

Photos by A&G Romans Photo


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From This Author DC Felton