In 1948, composer Cole Porter re-established himself as Broadway’s biggie with the staging of Kiss Me Kate. His previous success had been “Anything Goes” fifteen year earlier. Unlike the Gershwin’s; Rogers & Hart; Adler & Ross; the Lerner/Lowe duo; Kander & Ebb and especially the Rogers &Hammerstein II collaboration; Porter also wrote his own lyrics … some were doozies. His ironic Kate’ number about ‘brushing up on one’s Shakespeare’ still gleans giggles. Rhyming “flatter her” with ‘Cleopaterer’ or “clothes mussing” with ‘much ado about nussing’ may not quite scan – but who cares!
Shooting Star Theatre, who made our TOP TEN with its ‘Pyjama Game’ in 2012, faced too formidable a task trying to stage “KATE” without a director. Granted, the genre’s maxim about ‘the Show must go on’ may be engraved in stone; but of all the contributors to a production; none is more critical than the director. He or she is like the bus driver or train engineer, the whole thing goes off-track without a boss. This effort tries hard but alas, it’s unpolished and disjointed. However, the story, plus Porter’s music still resonate and certainly is worth a look-see.
The plot deals with a veteran performing duo, divorced from each other, but the flame still flickers. While staging the Bard’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’; their personal lives, and two support character’s affair intertwine. Fortuitously, ‘All’s well that ends well’. (Forgive me; I couldn’t resist!). The two lead roles are played by Sara Chappel & James Clemenger. Each possesses acceptable vocal talent and sufficient thespian competence to portray both the main & subsidiary characterizations. However, they, and their support cast members lack the stage blocking and phrasing that Porter’s lyrics deserve. The secondary couple; Elisa Sorbara & Matthew Yeaman display sufficient on-stage chemistry to seem credible. One major suggestion for the former – cut the extra vowel-‘a’ at the end of each sentence’s word-‘a’. It grates.
There are some interesting personas among the support cast. A teen-aged Anthony Colonello, suitor for Bianca appears not-quite Bar Mitzvah –aged. But the kid can certainly dance up a storm. Ensemble member Katie O’Donnell has a 1,000watt façade that never turns off. Smiling while on stage is de rigeuer Theatrics-101, folks.
Shooting Star’s stage is rather small, so attempting a major chorus number such as ‘It’s too damned Hot’ is a challenge. The ensemble gave it full measure, but at times it appeared that a collision was imminent. Caution to cast: – the phrase is ‘chewing up the scenery” not pushing it over!
The five piece orchestra under Dan Grieve never overpowers and fortunately, remains on-key even when there was the occasional vocal lapse. KISS ME KATE will be at Shooting Star’s 230 Anchor Road theatre until the 24th. Suggestion, if a seatmate forgets to turn off the cellphone or texter … behavior rather heinous…”Kick him or her in the Coriolanus”