KATE WAS GREAT!
By: Hal de Becker
Do not continue reading this! First grab your phone and call UNLV’s box office and make a reservation to see Cole Porter’s ‘Kiss Me Kate’. It’s a ‘don’t miss’. It runs through May 8th but performances have been selling out.
This joyful, uplifting and thoroughly professional production of the multi-award-winning show was produced by UNLV’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre (NCT).
If you are only familiar with the MGM movie version with its watered down lyrics, you are in for a surprise. Cole Porter’s witty words and ingenious rhyming may not be
X Rated but they come hilariously close.
The show premiered in 1948 and was an immediate hit with critics and public alike. Many consider it the perfect musical comedy and NCT fulfills that expectation with abundant music, song, dance, comedy, clever sets, colorful costumes and first rate performances from the attractive cast.
The story combines a performance of Shakespeare’s play ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, with the frequently chaotic backstage lives of the players, especially the two divorced, temperamental ‘Stars’ who are to portray Kate and Petruchio.
Zipporah Peddle as Kate possessed a strong, operatically trained voice and her effortless delivery of the challenging ‘So in Love’ came as no surprise. However, her wildly funny, uninhibited ‘I Hate Men’ was an unexpected tour de force.
Petruchio was portrayed with flair by Steve Judkins who delivered a delightful and stylishly bawdy characterization. His lusty ‘I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua’, brimming over with risqué double meanings, was a knockout.
Bianca, who brazenly admits that she’s tempted by ‘Any Tom, Dick or Harry’, was played by Madison Kisset with appropriate brassiness. The only promise she makes to her boyfriends is ‘I’ll Always be True to You in my Fashion.’
Her current beau was played by talented singer-dancer-actor Lysander Abadia in the role of Lucentio who asks Bianca, ‘Why can’t You Behave?’ His ‘Too Darn Hot’ number was a show-stopper.
Rusty Meyers and Sam Cordes were amusing as caricature gangsters and Glenn Heath was convincing as the not-so-straitlaced General. Ashlie Carter and Christopher Sailer played Dressers and Jack Rafferty was Stage Manager.
The ensemble singers and dancers got the show on the road with an exhilarating rendition of ‘Another Opening, Another Show’. From there to the finale and beyond to the curtain calls, there was no let down in the excitement generated by the performance.
Direction by Russell Treyz was flawless and full of the original as well as new ‘bits of business.’ His staging of the players’ moves, placement, poses and attitudes was just right. His approach gave the 23 member cast a polish and rapport that belied the short time they have been working together.
Angelo Moio’s choreography captured the Cole Porter Broadway period perfectly and even included a courtly Elizabethan dance. It was refreshingly free of acrobatics, spinning on heads or directing martial arts kicks at one’s partner. Instead, it consisted of pure, happy dancing that made the audience smile rather than wince.
Equally faithful to both periods were the lavish costumes by Judy Ryerson and the two-tier set by Dana Moran Williams. The roll out transition from the back stage scenes to the dressing rooms was particularly effective.
Under the baton of Christopher Lash, the orchestra left nothing to be desired and provided the singers and dancers with superb support. If Maestro Lash also directed the ensemble singers he did an excellent job. They sounded terrific.
Here are a few of the show’s other Cole Porter hits to whet your appetite: Wunderbar;
From This Moment On; We Open in Venice; Were Thine That Special Face; Where is the Life That Once I Led; Bianca.