Monday, April 15, 2019

Kiss Me, Kate!


Kelli O’Hara (The King and I, South Pacific) reaffirms her status as the reigning queen of the American musical with her wonderful performance in the dual roles of Lilli Vanessi and Katharine in Roundabout’s delightful revival of Cole Porter’s (Anything Goes, Gay Divorce) 1948 classic. Her gorgeous voice comes as no surprise — to hear her version of “So in Love” is bliss— but her skill at slapstick comedy was unexpected. As Fred Graham and Petruchio, Will Chase (Something Rotten!, High Fidelity) makes an excellent partner for her. Corbin Bleu (Holiday Inn), as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, impresses with a fine voice and fleet feet. Stephanie Styles (Kingdom Come) makes an auspicious Broadway debut as Lois Lane/Bianca. Regarding the rest of the cast, nontraditional casting has resulted in a diversity that is rare for Broadway. Warren Carlyle’s (Hello, Dolly!, She Loves Me) energetic, sexy choreography is a major attraction. Under Paul Gemigniani’s musical direction, the classic Porter score sounds great. David Rockwell’s (Lobby Hero, She Loves Me) scenic design includes a realistic three-level backstage set with matching dressing rooms that roll in as well as more fanciful backdrops and an amusing curtain for “Taming of the Shrew.” The colorful costumes by Jeff Mahshie (She Loves Me, Next to Normal) are a delight. Scott Ellis (She Loves Me, Twentieth Century) once again shows a flair for directing a musical revival. The tweaks to Sam and Bella Spewack’s (Leave It to Me, Boy Meets Girl) book may make it more palatable for today’s sensibility, but it remains old-fashioned and clunky even by 1948 standards. However, with its gorgeous score and a splendid production, it is easy to overlook the shortcomings of the book. Running time: two hours 30 minutes including intermission.

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