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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Kiss Me, Kate

by Lizzie Loveridge

If she says your behavior is heinous
Kick her right in the 'Coriolanus,'
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kowtow.
--- Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Kiss Me, Kate
Marin Mazzie (Photo: Alastair Muir)

As the political bonds between the United States of America and Britain strengthen, so do those cultural ties which bring the best of Broadway to London. Kiss Me, Kate is a glorious example of the American musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, a play from the old country by William Shakespeare with Australian born Michael Blakemore, in the director's chair. We are fortunate in having four American actors in the lead, Marin Mazzie as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, Brent Barrett as Fred Graham/Petruchio, Michael Berresse as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio and Nancy Anderson as Lois Lane/Bianca. Mazzie and Berresse were both in the original Broadway show. As this production has already been reviewed twice by my esteemed editor, Elyse Sommer, I can do no better than to direct you to her reviews which can be read by clicking. here.

I shall however relate that the show seems to have well survived the passage over the pond and that it remains a glittering ensemble vehicle. My first impression was the physical beauty of it, the design team have carefully limited the colours to mostly shades of red through pinks and apricot to the greens with almost no blue. Some of the cut out sets for the Italian scenes are so pretty, terracotta landscapes and wooded hillsides out of the background of a painting by Raphael. The lighting is often bright enough to cast heavy shadows and the whole show is creatively lit, enhancing the colour choices which give the glorious choreography a feeling of togetherness.

Marin Mazzie fascinates with her amazingly large mouth, her facial contortions, especially when she is playing "the Shrew" leave us in no doubt as to her reaction to the suffering heaped upon her. Brent Barrett and Miss Mazzie are well balanced musically, together they are quite "Wunderbar". The bravura performance from Michael Berresse as Bill when he dances up to the top tiered balcony in a series of athletic leaps and somersaults is show stopping. A highlight of the show is "Always True to You in My Fashion" the duet between Bill and the flirtatious Lois, here played by a vivacious Nancy Anderson. British actors have stepped into the "goon" roles. The two guys from the Mafia, who, in trying to collect a debt, smell the greasepaint, are convincing and comical. Sharp suited Teddy Kempner and Jack Chissick get a huge applause for the much loved "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". "It's Too Darn Hot", the jazz song which does nothing to advance the plot but which is my personal favourite from the show is danced and sung by Nolan Frederick, a Trinidadian/Londoner who studied with Martha Graham in New York. It is the longest choreographic routine in the show and we would have gladly stayed for more.

Here is the message from London's West End to Broadway,
Kiss Me, Kate huge success STOP Please send more of the same! STOP.
To quote Blakemore when he picked up his twin directing Tony's for Copenhagen and Kiss Me, Kate, "Thank you America!"

Kiss Me, Kate
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by Michael Blakemore

Book by Sam and Bella Spewack
Starring: Marin Mazzie, Brent Barrett, Michael Berresse, Nancy Anderson
With: Jack Chissick, Nicolas Colicos, Teddy Kempner, Kaye E Browen, Colin Farrell, Nolan Frederick, Vicky Coote, Louise Dearman, Catherine Digges, Rebecca Giacopazzi, Christian Gibson, Pete Hillier, Lizzie Leigh, Barry McNeill, Jo Napthine, Kimmi Richards, Richard Sidaway, Duncan Smith, Sarah Soetaert, Andrew Spillett, Christopher Stewart, Phillip Sutton, Alan Vicary, Nick Winston, Annette Yeo.
Musical Supervision by Paul Gemignani
Musical Direction by Gareth Valentine
Choreography by Kathleen Marshall
Scenic Design: Robin Wagner
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound: Tony Meola
Orchestration by Don Sebesky
Dance Arrangements by David Chase
Fights by B H Barry
Running time: Two hours forty five minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7834 1317
Booking to 9th February 2002
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on the 1st November 2001 performance at the Victoria Palace, Victoria Street, London SW1E 5EA (Underground: Victoria)
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