‘Kiss Me Kate’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 8, 2014

‘Kiss me Kate’ has a similar storyline to William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’; indeed, it is about a New York theatre company putting on a production of ‘The Shrew’ showing the parallels in the stories as it goes. It was rewritten in the contemporary style (‘contemporary’ being the end of World War II) by authors Bella and Sam Spewack. Cole Porter added the music and lyrics later.

After a run of 1,000 nights on Broadway, it swept the board at the 1949 Tonys, then went on to win another dozen Tony Awards for the revivals in the years that followed. A film was made in 1953, starring Howard Keel. This was MGM’s first 3-D musical in MIRACULOUS stereo!

If you are over 30 then you will know a couple of the songs, over 50 and you will be singing along with half a dozen tunes that you did not really know came from a musical, such as ‘Wunderbar’, ‘We Open in Venice’, ‘I Hate Men’ and ‘Too Darn Hot’.

Many congratulations to Gwyne Marshall on her rare award from the ITA, for her services to community theatre. Most deserving.

The Darlington Theatre Players are proudly presenting this spectacular musical at the Marloo Theatre, 20 Marloo Road, Greenmount at 8.00 pm on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 13th December. Sunday matinees are on Sunday 30th and 7th at 2.00 pm.

 

      A production of a musical is about to open, and the cast are warming up in the wings. Hattie (Eileen Coleman) steps forward and gives a rip roaring rendition of ‘Another Op’nin’, Another Show’ as the wardrobe mistress (Rachel Vonk) wheels in a rack of costumes.

      However, for the show’s arrogant director and male lead, Fred Graham (Chris Gerrish – see below), and the leading lady, Fred’s famous ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Katherine Freind) things are about to get overheated. Fred is now in love with man magnet, Lois Lane (Nyree Hughes). Lois, as well having a laugh like a horse, already has a steady boyfriend, gambler Bill (Sean Yeo).

      The stage manager (David Seman) gives a 5-minute call, just as two debt-collecting, dapper gangsters (Keith Scrivens, Alex Markham – hilarious team work) appear at the theatre door. It seems someone has signed Fred’s name on an IOU and they are here to collect.

       Lilli advises Fred that she has recently become engaged to General Harrison Howell (Brendan Tobin) and flashes her stunning engagement ring.

      Their production, ‘Taming of the Shrew’ has started on stage, and the wealthy but distraught Baptista (Michael Hart) is desperately trying to marry off his obnoxious daughter, Kate (Katherine Friend) to anyone stupid enough to take her. Baptista’s servants (Barbara Lovell, Luke Heath) are laying out a feast as an encouraging lure. The locals (Natasha Smith, Elanor Cooper-Ritter, Tanya Doogan, Angus Cummings, Lachlan Kessey) arrange for the revelry.

     When the army general arrives to see his fiancée Lilli, he sees an old love, Lois, and arranges to meet secretly with her at a later date.

      With so many people in love with each other, who will end up with whom?

 

The director of this magnificent production is Neroli Burton, who has been responsible for a couple of dozen major musicals in WA. She really has that magic touch of keeping large crowd scenes moving and all of the performers looking interested. When your outstanding, leading man gets as a sore throat and has to call off, Neroli was so lucky to have such a talent as Musical Director, Justin Friend who managed to step in, script in hand (although hardly used). Justin managed to give an amazing full dramatic and comedic performance. Katherine might have had her bottom smacked by her real-life husband, but he received several face slaps in return.

The singers, especially the leads, had powerful voices that retained clarity and perfect pitch, a joy to listen to. There was an exhausting, thigh slapping dance routine with Jake Fryer, David Zuiddam and a young lady, sorry not sure who) which was one of the highlights of choreographer, Jessica Russell’s superbly creative routines.

Again, the new LED lamps coupled with Mike Hart, David Bain and Mike Small’s skills, showed that extra range of hues and luminescence control brought visual excitement to every scene. Greg Rusha and Chantelle Pitt’s soundscape was crisp and lively. The costumes were perfect for the late 1940s and the historical Shakespearean play, their style, cut and colours were immaculate, from the Mobster suits to the flowing gowns, all were created by Marjorie DeCaux, Nyree Hughes and Rachel Vonk. There were numerous props required, but again Lesley Sutton and Carol Hall spared no effort.

The musicians (sorry no names) were playing at the rear of the stage. They kept the pace flowing flawlessly, with a fine balance and just the correct volume.

Finally, but by no means least – the scenery. The backcloth artwork (Adrian Ashman, Owen Davis) gave an extra depth to the stage and had a wonderful warm Mediterranean glow. The required ‘full sets’ of flats and furniture, ranged from a small theatre passage, to two dressing rooms, a sitting room, an Italian town square complete with balconied mansions and a church; who better to entrust the task to than George Boyd? George is renowned for his set ‘convertibility’. His stage team were silent and swift as they manoeuvred huge blocks of set, like a Rubik’s Cube, in seconds. Even by George’s standard, this series of sets were unbelievable, the lateral thinking astounding.

How often is a show advertised as a ‘spectacular musical’ and you find it flat? A true spectacle should have superb singing, well-synchronised imaginative choreography, dancers who smile and look interested, stunning scenery, quality sound and lighting, lots of laughs and brilliant costumes – well folks, this show has EVERYTHING. Only a couple of shows to go, but even for a company that is well known for its musicals, this has to be one of their best. Energy packed. Fabulous.