Kiss Me Kate

Wed 13th – Sat 16th June 2012

reviews

Julie Fisher

at 19:37 on 17th Jun 2012

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With the end of term fast approaching, it is clear that the numerous graduating members of Kiss Me, Kate's cast and crew wanted to go out with a bang. The result was not just a bang but an explosion of talent which made Cole Porter's already fabulous musical even more of a joy to watch.

The story of a company of actors putting on a performance of The Taming of the Shrew, but allowing their complicated personal lives to interfere with their acting, Kiss Me, Kate focuses on vainglorious actor-producer Fred Graham (Doug Gibbs) and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Hannah Howie) who take on the roles of Petruchio and Katharine respectively. Also important are Lois Lane (Daisy Newlyn), who is playing Bianca and hoping that Fred will make her into a star, but will always stay true to lover Bill Calhoun (Joe Leather) in her fashion, as she sings in the second act. Bill has caused his own problems for Fred, attempting to dodge a gambling debt which leads to Fred being targeted by a pair of less-than-competent gangsters (Maxwell Spence and Charlie Warner).

Although the entire cast was stunning, it was Howie who stole the show, particularly in her scenes as the irrepressible Kate. From the moment she appeared, beating off potential suitors with a broom and growling, she had the audience in fits, and her performance of 'I Hate Men' was arguably the highlight of the show. She and Gibbs bounced off each other perfectly, both as Lilli and Fred and Petruchio and Kate, particularly during 'Were Thine That Special Face' and 'Wunderbar'. Daisy Newlyn was delightfully ditzy and flirtatious as Lois Lane, and Charlie Warner never failed to raise a laugh as the more incompetent of the two gangsters. But there was not a single cast member who was not deserving of praise, so much so that when many of them were on stage together it was often difficult to know where to look.

The orchestra, under the fantastic direction of Andrew Mair and Dave Collins, performed excellently, even whilst have props hurled at them from the stage, and the musical numbers were enhanced by Emma Cave's fantastic choreography. Of particular note were 'Too Darn Hot', which got almost the entire cast dancing whilst simultaneously portraying the feeling of being too lethargic to move, and 'Tom, Dick, or Harry' , during which Joe Leather back flipped across the stage. And there was a feeling of energy about the performance which extended beyond the choreographed dances, particularly in Kate and Petruchio's scenes together.

Also deserving of mention are director Julia Loveless and producers Lucy Martin and Sarah Johnson, for getting the production so polished in just under twelve days (nowhere near the four weeks referenced in 'Another Op'nin', Another Show'), complete with two sets of costumes and a range of weird and wonderful props. The only criticism which can be made is that the music was at times a little too loud to hear what I'm sure were hilarious lines.

With its catchy tunes, energetic dancing, and side-splitting humour, Kiss Me, Kate certainly brightened up my rainy Durham evening!

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