This Kiss Me Kate Deserves A Smooch

Published: Monday, September 23, 2013 7:00 am By: Michall Jeffers Source: Woman Around Town

With Kiss Me Kate, Westchester Broadway has taken on a classic of the musical theater that’s both demanding vocally and challenging in terms of dialogue. Fortunately, in William Michals, they have a leading man who brings to his role a full, rich baritone which reverberates through the theater like rolling velvet. The snappy dialogue is well served by the cast; not a joke is missed or misinterpreted. Kiss Me Kate has the distinction of winning the first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. The music and lyrics are by Cole Porter, who was influenced by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! among other shows, to write what was known as an integrated musical. Hard as it is for us to understand, it was common for earlier shows to make little connection between dialogue and musical numbers. A new age had dawned in theater; the lyrics were now expected to move along the plot line. Not coincidentally, this was Porter’s biggest hit, and his only show to run over 1.000 performances.

 The number that begins the first act, “Another Op’nin, Another Show” has become a show business anthem, right up there with Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Every theater goer gets a thrill seeing the production take shape. James Brennan, who is both the director and the choreographer, wisely sets the scene as the audience still mumbles, nearly oblivious to the lone character sweeping the stage to the light of a single lamp. Then, as the lyrics begin, and more people join in, the excitement builds. The story is clever, if a bit complicated to follow at times. Essentially, it’s a play within a play. A somewhat down at heels theater company is performing a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The swaggering actor/director/producer, Fred Graham (Michals) has taken on the lead male role of Petruchio. Starring opposite him as Kate is his ex-wife, movie actress Lili Vanessi (Christianne Tisdale, who brings a feisty sensibility). The two have a love/hate relationship, which mirrors their characters. Meanwhile, bombshell Lois Lane is playing Bianca (the adorable Missy Dowse), and trying to handle her troublesome boyfriend. Bill (Brian Ogilvie, who achieves the nearly impossible in making Bill likeable) is an actor in the play, and an inveterate gambler; he has signed Fred’s name to a $10,000 IOU.

A couple of culture loving thugs (Michael Kubala and Michael J. Farina, both of whom handle the garbled but witty dialogue exceptionally well) come to collect from Fred. A light bulb idea leads him to telling the enforcers that he can only pay up if Lili, who’s about to quit, stays in the production. She reluctantly agrees, but her fury over receiving a bouquet that Fred had intended for Lois carries over to the stage. It’s not easy to present iconic songs to an audience. “So In Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Always True To You (In My Fashion),” and several more are so familiar, I’m sure many people don’t realize their origin. The