BWW Review: KISS ME KATE at Leawood Stage Company
Leawood Stage Company, the mainly city supported suburban, community theater program under the Leawood (KS) Park and Recreation District operates at the outdoor Ironwoods Amphitheater. The current production, Cole Porter's "Kiss Me Kate," opened this past weekend and will be performed through July 20 at 8:00 p.m. nightly. Leawood has provided everything needed to put on a great show. Tickets are free.
The city has provided a fifty foot stage, a movable wall for scene changes , plenty of set pieces, a couple of high platform redoubts, fronting a cast of forty-four, an orchestra pit for twenty-three musicians (including strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion and even a harpist), and an additional twenty-eight person production staff. There is plenty of sound equipment, lights, and tented dressing rooms.
1948's "Kiss Me Kate" originated from the clever musical mind of Cole Porter with a book by the then shakily married Romanian emigre team of Sam and Bella Spewack. This iteration was updated in 1999. "Kiss Me Kate" is an outrageous classic musical comedy written on several different levels.
Just to point out how times have changed... Parts of "Kiss Me Kate" can be taken as grossly sexist, but this can be forgiven when it is pointed out that the show was mainly written by a woman as satire at the end of a bad marriage.
Each level of humor can be directed along several very different tracts. The director for this show is Hersh Ellis.
At its most basic plot level, a famous, divorced, acting team is working together for one last time in order that they might retrieve their lost fortunes. "Kiss Me Kate" is actually a play about a troupe of actors performing a musical version of the Shakespearean comedy, "Taming of the Shrew." They are scheduled to preview their show in Baltimore before transferring it up to the Great White Way.
For those of you not familiar with east coast geography, Baltimore is located just north of Washington DC. Why you know that will become clear in a moment.
Fred/Petruchio (David Martin) is the director and star of the play within a play. He is no longer married to the leading lady Lilly/Cathereine (Kat Rupercht), but the two of them cannot seem to get free of each other; like their characters in the show. Fred has capped his romantic eye on the pretty, second-lead actress, Lois Lane / Bianca (Haley Saolowy). Lilly meanwhile has a boy toy of her own somewhere in the DC swamp of politicians.
Lois is also somehow involved with gambling-addicted, company bad boy Bill/Lucentio (Alex Walberg). Bill has lost ten Gs to the Baltimore mob in a crap game and has signed an IOU in Fred's name. Comedy mob enforcers have shown up to collect.
The leads in "Kiss Me Kate" warble Cole Porter hits including "Another Opening," "Wunderbar," So In Love," "Tom, Dick, and Harry," "I hate Men," "Were Thing That Special Face?," the hilarious "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," "Too Damn Hot," and "Always True To You In My Fashion."
"Kiss Me Kate" is a fun show. The singers sing reasonably well. The dance numbers are well executed. The missing pieces for me are better senses of the stage geography and of the nuances of Shakespearean dialog that is really very funny in this format.
"Kiss Me Kate" continues through July 20 at the Ironwoods Amphitheater.
Photos courtesy of Leawood Stage Company.