Friday, 18 June 2010
Kiss Me, Kate: Bold and Bright
(all photos by David Hou)
The Story: It is the 1940’s in Baltimore, and ex-spouses Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi are starring in a new adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. Lilli still has feelings for her ex, but he is favouring his new ingénue Lois Lane, who is actually in love with her cabaret co-star, Bill Calhoun. Thanks to Bill’s gambling, some toughs have come to collect his debt – which he signed in Fred’s name. Lilli learns of Fred’s fling and in a fury tries to leave the show, but Fred persuades the debt collectors force her hand, because maybe, just maybe, he still has feelings for her, too.
The play-within-a-musical storyline might be a bit confusing but let us state right now, this is not Shakespeare’s play, it is Cole Porter’s musical. The characters in the musical are playing actors who perform Shakespeare rather badly. They are supposed to be bad Shakespearean actors whose offstage lives begin to leak onstage; that is a small part of what makes this musical so funny. (It is not nearly so funny to explain to one’s audience neighbours who thought they’d be seeing The Taming of the Shrew - sans music - so let’s move on.)
The musical begins with a single actor onstage (Jordan Bell), a boy who remains onstage throughout the entire story – a sort of ‘everyman’ audience who is seduced not just by the onstage glory, but the backstage dramas of the actors. He is not the only one seduced either. The two toughs, played by Steve Ross and Cliff Saunders in perfect unison, also begin to feel the pull of the limelight, and slowly transform into actors within the play. They not only look forlorn when they have to give up their costumes, but perform one of the most delightful, hummable numbers of the play – Brush Up Your Shakespeare (in perfect Brooklyn accents) – to extend their time on stage (although the launch of this number seems to come out of nowhere).
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