BWW Reviews: Runaway's KISS ME KATE is Simply 'Wunderbar'

"Another op'nin, another show. Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse. Three weeks, and it couldn't be worse. One week, will it ever be right? Then out of the hat it's that big first night." Those opening lyrics to Cole Porter's classic musical had double meaning at Friday night's opening performance of Runaway Stage Productions' "Kiss Me Kate." Despite a few kinks in sets and sound, the talented cast had its energetic audience laughing, smiling and applauding from start to finish.

Runaway has taken on a challenging show with difficult, but enchanting orchestrations and with constantly changing on-stage and off-stage sets. The Tony award winning musical follows a divorced couple's interactions as they reunite for a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." The on-stage action echoes the behind the scenes drama as the two epitomize the ultimate battle of the sexes. 

Runaway's resident orchestra does a "delovely" job with Porter's score, which includes well-known songs such as "Wunderbar," "Were Thine That Special Face," and "So In Love." The supporting cast delivers many of the better known tunes. Caitland Martin lends her strong voice to "Another Opening, Another Show," while Kevin Sowles and Michael Cross bring the much-loved comedy to the show as the gangsters thrown into the spotlight. The two also do a fabulous job with the hilarious and fun "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." 

Ryan Allen keeps things cool with his smokin' rendition of "Too Darn Hot," while the chorus backs him up with fantastic choreography by Darryl Strohl. Lauren and Mark Ettensohn also impress with strong vocals and great dancing as the flirtatious Lois and gambling boyfriend Bill. There is no solid resolution to the characters' relationship, but that matters little with such lovely acting. The couple performs an adorable staging of "I'm Always True to You in My Fashion." Lauren plays Lois as a "dumb blonde" with plenty of heart, but when her character steps on the stage of Shrew the Musical, she must have a difficult time acting poorly on purpose, as her contagious smile is hard to contain. 

It would be difficult to contain the talent of any of Runaway's cast, especially its leading man and lady. Tevye (quite the theatrical name in itself) Ditter has a gorgeous, smooth voice as Fred, the producer and actor who puts all of his efforts and money into his shows. Andrea St. Clair shines as Lilli, Fred's ex-wife and co-star. The two also act as Petrucio and Kate in Fred's stage musical. They play off each other with impeccable timing and enjoyable chemistry. St. Clair sings a cleverly staged and comically performed "I Hate Men." The actress has a strong presence and personality throughout the show, and her show-stopping voice deserves the greatest praise imaginable.

Aside from the kind of simple sets and lack of chorus members one might expect from community theatre, the various elements of Runaway's "Kiss Me Kate" attest to a quality far beyond typical community productions. Great choreography and strong leads exemplify Runaway's ongoing ability to put on shows worth the price of admission and more, making director Bob Baxter's production (and any other Runaway show, for that matter) a must see for all theater lovers.

Kiss Me Kate

Runaway Stage Productions

Now through June 3

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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