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BWW Interview: KISS ME KATE to Open at Washington County Playhouse


It's time to "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" when Kiss Me, Kate opens at the Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater on March 4.

Cole Porter's musical masterpiece Kiss Me, Kate depicts a touring company of actors performing a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The onstage relationships mirror the backstage relationships as feuding divorced couple Fred and Lilli portray the main lovers in the show. Add in two gangsters trying to collect on a gambling debt and two jealous young lovers and you have one of the best musical comedies about the mixed-up world of musical comedy.

"A lot of Shakespearean plays have layered acting and Kiss Me Kate adds to this. We are actors playing actors playing Shakespearean characters while responding and trying to hide our responses to huge surprises and unexpected twists that happen while performing The Taming of the Shrew" said ensemble member Julia Becker

Kiss Me, Kate is a large old-fashioned musical comedy, and adapting the giant production to an intimate dinner theater setting required some re-imagined staging.

"This show was originally built for big proscenium stages, but in the intimate Washington County Playhouse, the audience is right in the middle of the action as it happens all around them. It brings new life to a classic show, and it's a great way to see Kiss Me, Kate again, or for the first time" said Andrew Baughman, who plays Fred/Petruchio

"Doing such a large musical in such an intimate space can be quite formidable. This show has seamlessly worked through any size issues in a beautiful fashion" said Lee Merriman, who plays the First Gun Man.

Meanwhile, the actors in Kiss Me, Kate have the unique challenge of playing actors and theater personalities onstage.

"I love the rehearsal process and watching these talented actors who will turn a very raw product into a great stage production" said Russell Nye, who plays the Second Gun Man.

"Fred is a challenging role that draws upon an actor's ability to sing in a very old fashioned Broadway style and it also requires classical acting chops to handle the language incorporated from The Taming of the Shrew" said Baughman.

"I'm a pretty quiet, laid-back person. The character I'm playing, Ralph, is more of a Type A personality. He takes his job as stage manager seriously and I need to crank up my energy accordingly. There will be no missed entrances on my watch!" said Dan Ritchey on playing Ralph the Stage Manager.

Typically, the camaraderie shown on stage among the fictional group of touring actors quickly developed in real life among the actors in the Kiss Me, Kate cast

"This cast is an amazing and talented group of actors! I'm in awe of the hard work and dedication brought to the production and it makes me up my game. The performances are a delight and this is one of the best ensembles I've been around" said Merriman.

"I'm so grateful for all of the great people I've met and the new friends that I made" said Nye. "Reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people who share my love for performing has been fantastic" said ensemble member Erin Light

"It has been fantastic working at the Washington County Playhouse because owners Shawn and Laura Martin are very talented people who surround themselves with equally talented actors, directors, designers, and technicians" said Baughman. "Everyone is so great and we help each other out. It sounds cliche, but the Playhouse feels like family to me" said Ritchey

The cast of Kiss Me, Kate is ready for "Another Opening of Another Show" as they prepare to welcome the audience to the wacky world of backstage theatricals.

"This show is so hilarious and it has everything: great acting, Shakespeare, comedy, singing, dancing, great food and great people" said Nye. "Cole Porter's lyrics are some of the best ever written and his wonderful music is a joy to sing and hear" said Merriman

"Anyone who wants to forget their troubles for a bit and have a good hearty laugh should come see this show" said Dan

Kiss Me, Kate also features Laura J. Martin as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, Hope Wolford as Lois Lane/Bianca, Shawn Nakia Law and David Porterfield alternating as Harry Trevor/Baptista, Jackie Rebok as Hattie, Anthony Marchese as the Stage Doorman/Padua Priest, Andre Brown as Paul, Scott Ruble as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, Rennes Carbaugh as Flynt/Gremio, Ryan Perry as Riley/Hortensio, James Banzhoff as Harrison Howell and Timothy Diehl, James Wright, Marquis Allgood, Andrew Pregartner, Shannen Banzhoff, Marley Mueller, Arielle Pizana, Johnna Leary and Laney Grimm as ensemble members.

Kiss Me, Kate runs March 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 and April 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23 with one Sunday matinee on March 13. Dinner hour will begin at 6:00 with the show shortly following at approximately 7:45 for evening performances and lunch hour for the matinee performances begins at 1:00 with the show following at approximately 2:30. For more information about the production or to make reservations, please call the box office at (301) 739-7469 or visit

Photo Credit: Washington County Playhouse

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