Kate The Great Sparkles At Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Friday, September 20, 2013 7:00 am By: James Cotter Source: Times Herald-Record

ELMSFORD – “Brush up your Shakespeare” and visit the Westchester Broadway Theatre to see “Kiss Me, Kate,” the musical about a couple who are performing a musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew.”  Off stage, the couple are divorced and their battle of the sexes carries over into the Bard’s comedy about an arrogant suitor who woos and finally marries a reluctant, angry and temperamental young lady.  Lyrics and music by Cole Porter have made this 1948 Tony-Award winning show a Broadway classic.  It’s comic, witty and brilliant as it lights up the stage with its Elizabethan sets and costumes in a modern setting.

Directed and choreographed by James Brennan, the cast of 20 sings and dances to a delightful score that is “Too Darned Hot” as performed by the eight piece orchestra directed by Leo P. Carusone from “Another Op’nin, Another Show” to the “Kiss Me, Kate” finale.  William Michals as Fred is in fine voice as he shares memories of past duets with Christianne Tisdale as ex-mate Lilli, sharing “Wunderbar” highlights of the good old days.  Unfortunately, Fred is pursuing a younger star, Lois Lane, played by Missy Dowse.  She is involved with Bill, whom Brian Ogilvie portrays as an actor and gambling man.

Now in the “Taming” musical, Fred plays Petruchio, Lilli is Kate, Lois is Bianca who is Kate’s younger sister, and Bill is Lucentio, Bianca’s suitor.  Their interactions in the musical within the musical add to the clever story created by Samuel and Bella Spewack.  “Where is the Life That Once I Led?” Michals as Petruchio wonders with genuine emotion while Tisdale’s Katharine confesses “I Hate Men” until her final admission, “I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.”  As Fred and Lilli, both in turn admit that they are “So In Love,” she at the beginning and he at the end of their story.

Meanwhile, Dowse and Ogilvie trace their rocky Lois and Bill relationship from “Why Can’t You Behave?” to their “Always True to You (In My Fashion)” with
two of Cole Porter’s memorable tunes.  In Padua, Dowse is delightful as Bianca as she sings and dances with her suitors, “Tom, Dick or Harry.”  The foursome
join in a rousing “We Open in Venice” with Michals’ marvelous baritone, Tisdale’s soaring soprano, Dowse’s sparkling voice and personality and Ogilvie’s charming tenor delivering the witty lyrics with clarity and humor.

Michael Kubala and Michael J. Farina climax the show as two gangsters who urge us to “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in a hilarious song and soft-shoe and tapping number that wins the audience’s hearts.  As Baptista, Kate and Bianca’s father, James Van Treuren captures all the frustrations and hopes
of his befuddled character.  When Lilli’s fiancé Harrison Howell finally appears, Daren Kelly is a joy to behold in his Major General’s uniform and take-charge military manner.   It’s a spot-on spoof.

The set design by John Farrell easily turns from stark backstage to panels of street views of Padua and surroundings. A round rising stage puts us right in the stars’ dressing rooms.  The costumes by Derek Lockwood combine courtly black and white or rainbow colors for the Renaissance and stylish or casual 1940’s fashions.  Andrew Gmoser’s lighting design enhances the open space of the apron stage filled with high-stepping dancers.