KISS ME KATE
book by Sam and Bella Spewack music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP In rep to 1 September 2012.
7.30pm 16-21, 25, 26, 30, 31 July, 4, 8-10, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 27 Aug-1 Sept.
2.15pm 18, 21 25, 31 July, 4, 8, 10, 16, 18, 21, 23, 30 Aug, 1 Sept.
3pm 5, 19 Aug.
Audio-described 10 Aug 7.30pm, 18 Aug 2.15pm, 31 Aug.
BSL Signed 18 Aug 7.30pm.
Captioned 1 Sept 2.15pm.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 June.
Chichester in full showbiz and performance splendour.
As Neil Simon demonstrated in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, mid-century America still allowed its writers to create intelligent popular entertainment. The Spewacks’ 1948 script and Cole Porter’s lyrics for Kiss Me Kate show this too – despite references to being too highbrow. Shaping backstage marital rifts around a production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, it also reflected several contemporary showbusiness relationships.
Trevor Nunn, with his flair for showbiz and deep understanding of classical drama, makes an ideal director. Details are unobtrusively picked-out, like the way musical star Lilli Vanessi (Hannah Waddingham, first seen in Lauren Bacall-like cool glamour and hot-tempered thereafter, breaking the reality of the ‘Shrew’ set when she finds herself betrayed) assuages jealousy at her ex-husband Fred’s dalliance by walking towards a lifetime of the marital hell Petruchio briefly gives Katherine. The tedious General she’d marry has clear philandering intentions of his own.
Better to settle for second best, and the realism of Lilli’s rival Lois with her lover Bill. ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’, its melody climaxing on material gains from sex before relaxing into a kind of fidelity, becomes key, sung backstage with happy confidence by Holly Dale Spencer.
Some of Porter’s lyrics, despite their intelligence, are forced for rhyme’s sake. But the music’s ever-splendid. And splendidly staged; the opening numbers of each act alone proclaim distinction. ‘Another Opening’ grows from backstage mutters, its chorus swelled as Tim Mitchell’s ever-active lighting brightens when backstage staff are joined by the acting troupe arriving together. And Jason Pennycooke leads superbly a superb ensemble in Stephen Mear’s choreography for ‘Too Darn Hot’.
It shows how much Mear choreography can contribute, with its detail, variety and cumulative groupings. Then there’s the visual splendour of Robert Jones’ set and costumes, from functional backstage to a rich mix of colour and black-and-white etching for the ‘Shrew’ scenes (recalling David Hockney’s Rake’s Progress of decades ago), while varying angles of the set create intimacy or spaciousness.
Add David Burt’s greased loquacity and Clive Rowe’s ever-innocent features in the encore-inviting ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ and three hours seems too darn short.
Lilli Vanessi (Katherine): Hannah Waddingham.
Fred Graham (Petruchio): Alex Bourne.
Lois Lane (Bianca): Holly Dale Spencer.
Bill Calhoun (Lucentio): Adam Garcia.
Mr Hogan’s Employees: David Burt, Clive Rowe.
General Harrison Howell: Mark Heenehan.
Hattie: Wendy Mae Brown.
Paul: Jason Pennycooke.
Harry Trevor (Baptista) : Paul Grunert.
Hortensio: Kevin Brewis.
Gremio: Samuel Holmes.
Nathaniel: Harry Morrison.
Gregory: Warren Sollars.
Philip: Richard Jones.
Bianca’s Servant: Holy James.
Padua Citizens: Tanya Robb, Carolyn Maitland, Jo Morris.
Ralph: Shaun Henson.
Pops: Christopher Dickins.
Wardrobe Lady: Michelle Bishop.
Dance Captain: Kate Tydman.
Director: Trevor Nunn.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Orchestrator: Chris Egan.
Dance arrangements/Musical Supervisor/Musical Director: Gareth Valentine.
Choreographer: Stephen Mear.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Tom Littler.
Assistant choreographer/Dance Captain: Jo Morris.
Assistant musical director: Corin Buckeridge.