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Opening of "Kiss Me, Kate' in Spring Hill is a sparkler

(ran PC edition)

Excellent singing, fine performances and great choreography carry the Cole Porter musical.

The Stage West Community Playhouse's production of Cole Porter's 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate got off to a rousing start Thursday, thanks mainly to excellent singing, appealing performances, colorful period costumes and Jane Geddings' choreography.

Despite a few opening-night glitches and some overly long set changes and musical overtures, director Bob Reece's cast and crew delivered a sparkling evening of singing, dancing and story.

Kiss Me, Kate takes place backstage and onstage during one evening of a Baltimore tryout of a theatrical troupe's production of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The stars of Taming, Fred Graham/Petruchio (Tom Russell) and Lilli Vaness/Katherine (Susan Schildbach), are marking the first anniversary of their divorce and are feuding as much offstage as their characters do onstage. Fred grouses about Lilli's bad temper, and Lilli rages about Fred's supersized ego. Things escalate until Lilli fumes that she's walking out on the show.

Matters are exacerbated when one of Taming's actors, Bill Calhoun (Bill Dimmitt), signs Fred's name to the $10,000 gambling bill he owes an unforgiving mobster. Two "enforcers" (Angello Cutillo and Jack Joyce) arrive to collect the note from the unsuspecting Fred, but Fred turns the tables by persuading them to coerce Lilli into staying in the show.

Playwrights Bella and Sam Spewack cooked up a dandy and easily followed double story line, with subplots, but it is Porter's songs that make this show memorable, especially as done by Russell, Ms. Schildbach and Lisa Olmo as the flirtatious Lois Lane/Bianca.

The only thing missing from this fine production is the final scene when Fred/Petruchio plants a big one on Lilli/Kate. The director opted to omit the smooch, perhaps because the leads are really sister and brother. Come on. This is a stage, and it's only acting.