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'Kiss Me Kate' hits all marks

From left, Adam Biner, as Bill Calhoun, takes a leap over Andi Sperduti-Garner, as Bianca, while Dick Baker and Matty Colonna, who play Hortensio and Gremio, look on.
From left, Adam Biner, as Bill Calhoun, takes a leap over Andi Sperduti-Garner, as Bianca, while Dick Baker and Matty Colonna, who play Hortensio and Gremio, look on.
Published Sep. 24, 2014

This is what can be said about the Show Palace Dinner Theatre's production of Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate: What. A. Show.

Incredible voices, sensational dancing, gorgeous costumes, backdrops and sets, perfect sound and music, simply marvelous character actors — this show has it all, and then some.

Granted, what with today's headlines, you may cringe a bit when the lead male takes his ex-wife over his knee and spanks her so hard she can't sit down for days. But then, Kiss Me, Kate revolves around William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, written at a time when even the courts allowed a husband to give his wife "moderate correction," whatever that meant.

It's the story of a modern theater company doing a musical version of Shrew, where the courtly gentleman Petruchio vows to marry the notoriously temperamental Katharine and do a bit of wife-taming. The conflict on stage is mirrored by the conflict backstage between the company's owner, director and star, Fred Graham (a matinee-idol handsome, vocally-gifted Edward Miskie) and his ex-wife, the show-within-the-show's female lead, Lilli Vanessi (the lovely and equally gifted Jillian Prefach).

The two are still in love, but they split exactly a year ago for reasons unclear. Now Lilli is engaged to a powerful Washington insider, General Harrison Howell, (Rick Kistner, doing a terrific take on General Douglas MacArthur), and Fred's eye is roving, specifically toward the show's flirt, Lois Lane (an adorable Andi Sperduti-Garner). Lois's boyfriend Bill Calhoun (Adam Biner, a quadruple threat — singer, dancer, actor and gymnast) stirs the pot by signing a $10,000 IOU with Fred's name, made out to be the city's most notorious gangster. Two thugs (James Demetrius and Bobby Underwood) show up to collect, and end up as members of the company.

The story is fun, but what sticks in the mind are Porter's marvelous songs, Ms. Sperduti-Garner's rousing choreography, and the two gangsters' simply delicious rendition of Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Miskie's wistful, tender treatment of So In Love touches the heart; Ms. Prefach's large, expressive eyes simmer in her heated rendering of I Hate Men; Ms. Sperduti-Garner's Lois/Bianca is a real vixen in the coquettish Tom, Dick and Harry, with suitors Lucentio (Biner), Hortensio (Dick Baker), and Gremio (Matty Colonna).

The dancers fairly burn up the floor in Too Darn Hot, led by Aaron Washington's Paul, who has the look, the moves, the attitude, but not necessarily the voice (it matters little, as he's backed up by great singer-dancers).

Deidra Grace is a darling as Hattie, Lilli's faithful maid and Paul's main squeeze; she starts the show off right, with a strong Another Op'nin, Another Show. Itzy Friedman makes a perfect Baptista, doting father of Bianca and Katharine. Stage stalwart Troy LaFon gets off some good one-liners as Ralph and Shrew's Stage Manager.

The eight-member ensemble shines throughout the show, high-kicking, tumbling and whirling in a swoosh of color, energy and song.

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The only thing that could have made this show better: have Katherine sing her make-up song, I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple, with a dash of sarcasm or at least a wink to the audience to let us know that she really doesn't believe that, does she? Sure, the words are Shakespeare's, but, ehh. Well, at least for balance we have Lois's sassy Always True To You In My Fashion, where she flaunts her lusty independence.

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