KISS ME KATE
book by Sam and Bella Spewack music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse 1 North Road Highgate N6 4DB To 26 January 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 4pm & on 27, 31 Dec, 2, 3 Jan 3pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 340 3488.
Review: William Russell 17 December.
Another op’nin’ – of another terrific show.
As Lilli Vanessi, the temperamental diva playing Kate in a Baltimore try-out of a musical Taming of the Shrew, Sabrina Carter is superb. Fiery, with red hair and a terrific voice, she is the best thing in John Plews’ first fringe staging – full of vitality and invention – of Kiss Me Kate.
It is one of the perfect musicals with matchless songs and a really good book. Lilli, whose Hollywood career is not going well, has come back to the theatre, co-starring with ex-husband Fred Graham, with whom she cannot get along. They row constantly, as do Kate and Petruchio.
Things are complicated when a couple of gangsters turn up to collect a debt owed by the juvenile lead, and mistake Fred for the debtor.
At a couple of moments one wondered what was different. The answer is Plews has used the 1999 Broadway revival version, which includes ‘From This Moment On’, dropped from another Porter show, ‘Out of this World’.
It doesn’t matter, but one does wonder why Petruchio’s ‘Were Thine That Special Face’ is missing and why Lilli speaks Kate’s submission speech instead of singing Porter’s wistful song.
Gavin Keenan is very funny as Fred/Petruchio but a bit too camp for comfort. Fred may be a ham Shakespearean, but he was married to and still loves Lilli. The audience found him hilarious, but it is a risky interpretation. A straight Fred and camp Petruchio is fine, but making both the same is dubious.
As the gangsters, younger than usual, Dominic Quinn and Martin Steven Carlton perform ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ in a far more athletic way than usual and fully deserve the encores which are written into the score.
It could be the fault of the sound system, but some of the words of the song were lost. Olivia Holland-Rose, who sparkles nicely as Lois Lane, was also less than clear in her big number, ‘Always True to You Darling in My Fashion’. In Porter, the words always matter.
This remains a great show in an inventive production with a splendid band, athletic choreography and a thrilling leading lady.
Lilli Vanessi/Katherine: Sabrina Carter.
Fred Graham/Petruchio: Gavin Keenan.
Lois Lane/Bianca: Olivia Holland-Rose.
Bill Calhoun/Lucentio: Robbie Durham.
Gangster 1/Ensemble: Dominic Quinn.
Gangster 2/Ensemble: Martin Steven Carlton.
Roz/Ensemble: Leigh Lothian.
Paul/Gremio/Gregory/Ensemble: Dean Bray.
Hattie/Ensemble: Danielle Morris.
Dance Captain/Ensemble: Chloe Porter.
Haberdasher/Ensemble: Helen Reuben.
Hortensio/Nathaniel/Ensemble: Matthew Hartley.
General Harrison Howell: Phillip Arran.
Director: John Plews.
Designer: Fi Russell.
Lighting: Tom Boucher.
Sound: John Raper.
Musical Director: Simon Burrow.
Choreographer: Ryan-Lee Seager.
Assistant director: Zoe Ford.
Assistant choreographer: Kate Kenrick.