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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Kiss Me Kate

Kiss Me Kate
By Samuel and Bella Spewack
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by Patrick Flick
Starring Steven Patterson, Jean Tafler, Dana Barathy, Michael Andrew
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

Porter and the Spewack’s understood the basic problem with selling Shakespeare – no one today can follow the convoluted Elizabethan grammar without a few years as an English Major. They short circuit the problem by placing “Taming of The Shrew” as a modern backstage musical comedy. You can keep the characters, update the motivation, clarify the language, and best of all, make the jokes funny again.

Fred Graham (Patterson) writes, directs, and stars in this musical Shrew. He’s taken it to Baltimore for a shakedown and the hope of some big bucks financing. He plays Petruchio, and inexplicable casts his cranky ex-wife Lilli Vanessa (Tafler) as Kate. They may or may not still be in love, but he sends a corsage to blonde bombshell playing Bianca, Lois Lane (Barathy). Dresser Hattie (Fredena J Williams) accidently gives it to Lilli, and their reunion turns into real life stage combat. Lanes “real” boyfriend Bill Calhoun (Andrew) sticks a bad mafia gambling debt on Graham, and that drags in the comic relief, First and Second Gangsters (Bob Dolan and Brandon Roberts). Graham co-opts them into blustering Lilli to stick around, but she trumps with he own new boyfriend General Howell (David Chernault). He doesn’t last long; she needs to ditch him so we can have a happy ending and a big blow out number.

Despite some audibility problems with Mr. Patterson and the opening number “Another Op’nin’) this Kiss Me Kate is slick and well produced. Bert Scott’s colorful set slides between Padua and backstage Baltimore with the easy of any Broadway production, and chorographer Lea Andrew keeps the cast in motion, particularly the on stage Dance Captain Timothy Ellis. I would have likes to see Michael Andrew with another solo; he’s stuck with the afterthought song “Bianca.” That’s sort of a sub theme – two of the best songs in the show “Too Darn Hot” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” really have nothing do with the plot, they just appear with what I call “Musical Comedy Logic.” Still, it IS Cole Porter, so they’re part of why you came in the first place, and some of the actual plot moving songs are just as worth while. If nothing else, drop by for the stage fighting and the best full up adult spanking fantasy sequence ever put on the legitimate stage.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit
http://www.orlandoshakes.org