Kiss Me Kate
Tue 25 to Sat 29 November 1997
Palace Theatre, Redditch
Producer – Tony Lacey
Assistant Producer – Beverley Hatton
Musical Directors – Norma Kift and Guy Pardoe
Speciality Choreography – Davina Hooper
Society Accompanist – Michael Higgins
|Fred Graham (Petruchio)
|Lilli Vanessi (Kate)
|Harry Trevor (Baptista)
|Lois Lane (Bianca)
|Bill Calhoun (Lucentio)
|Benjamin Stubbs (Hortensio)
|Chas Gilpin (Gremio)
|Max O'Hagan, a gangster
|Joe Ambrosio, a gangster
|Millie, Fred's dresser
|Hattie, Lilli's dresser
|Harrison Howell, a millionaire
|Ralph Johnson, stage manager
|Sally Tempest, an ingenue
|Vera Page, an experienced showgirl
Kate’s a stunner
Redditch Operatic Society pulled out all the stops for Kiss Me Kate and it was clear a lot of work had gone into it. The show was very professional, with excellent costumes and sets making it a visually stunning production.
Performances were strong from all cast members, especially the leads, Julie Keeley as the feisty Katherine and Julian Wilson as her suitor. Elizabeth Bird was on form as the awful younger sister Bianca and Tony Lacey gave another good showing.
The ensemble tackled the songs with gusto and raised laughs with their madcap antics both on and off the stage.
Redditch Advertiser, December 1997
A cocktail of colour and familiar songs combined to make a most enjoyable rendition of a Cole Porter classic. Kiss Me Kate is a play about life on and off stage during a production of The Taming Of The Shrew at Ford’s Theatre, Baltimore.
Julie Keeley put in a fine performance as the men-hating Kate, while Julian Wilson provided the bumbling but somewhat pompous reason behind her detest. But it was Elizabeth Bird’s brave rendition of Lois Lane (Bianca) in suspenders and a bra that drew most admiration. It was carried off with dignity and guts. The costume department at Redditch Operatic Society made sure everyone else was less-scantily clad, working overtime to make sure the stage was always a rainbow of colour.
One of the highlights of the show was the two gangsters (Barrie Cole and Bob Taylor) with Brush Up Your Shakespeare, although in common with other numbers, there were just too many reprises.
While the show was slow to start (the overture setting the pace) the second half was kicked into action brilliantly by Tracy Rees as Sally Tempest singing Too Darn Hot. The show then rolled on to the end all too quickly.
Redditch Standard, December 1997
The kind of show that suits our Society – a good number of principal roles, a handful of secondary characters, and plenty for a large chorus to do. This show also marked the debut of a new production team in Tony Lacey and Bev Hatton.
We played the usual five performances, from Tuesday to Saturday evenings. Ticket sales were only reasonable, reaching mid 70%, probably because the show is not the greatest box office draw, but those who attended all enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
The Society particularly enjoys the music of Cole Porter, and this production had many musical highlights, particularly the opening of the second act – Too Darn Hot.
Synopsis of the Show
- Another Opening Another Show
- We Open In Venice
- I’ve Come To Wive It Wealthily In Padua
- I Hate Men
- Too Darn Hot
- Where Is The Life That Late I Led
- Brush Up Your Shakespeare
At Ford’s Theatre, Baltimore, actor-director Fred Graham has just finished a run-through of a musical version of The Taming Of The Shrew. The opening is hours away and nerves are on edge. Fred is feuding with his co-star and ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, while Lois Lane, another actress in the company, is unhappy about her romance with her fellow player, Bill Calhoun.
Bill confesses to Lois that he has been gambling and has signed Fred Graham’s name to an IOU. Meanwhile, in Lilli’s dressing room, she and Fred are at loggerheads again. They both still love each other, but neither will admit it. Lilli, in fact, has gone so far as to become engaged to Harrison Howell, a wealthy pillar of Washington society. Talk of engagements and anniversaries starts Fred and Lilli reminiscing and they remember their first show together in the chorus of a second rate operetta.
Two gunmen arrive to collect Fred’s IOU and when he denies having signed it they tell him they will be back later. In her dressing room. Lilli received a bouquet, which she assumes to have come from Fred and she confesses privately that she remains in love with him. But Fred had meant the flowers for Lois and although she doesn’t read the accompanying note, Lilli puts it away in her costume.
The play within a play begins. Petruchio arrives to seek the hand of Katherine, knowing full well her reputation as a shrew. She doesn’t attempt to hide her contempt for men. Petruchio woos her, but Katherine is unmoved. Lilli is not, for she has found Fred’s card to Lois. Lilli and Fred use the rough house action of the play for a real fight and once off-stage Lilli announces she is leaving the show immediately. Fred is unable to force her to stay and at that moment, the gunmen return. Seizing his chance, Fred acknowledges the IOU, but explains that he can’t honour it if Lilli walks out and the show closes. The gunmen force her at gunpoint to go on with the show.
During the interval the actors and their dressers go outside to escape the heat of the theatre. Back on stage, Petruchio reminisces about the women in his past. Harrison Howell arrives in answer to a call from Lilli, but before he can see her he meets Lois and it transpires that they have met before. Overhearing their conversation, Bill becomes jealous.
Harrison promises to take Lilli away from the chaotic life of the theatre, but in the life that he proposes she realises that she will probably die of boredom. At the first opportunity she sneaks out with Fred and they meet the gunmen, who tell them that their boss has been rubbed out and the IOU is no longer binding.
The performance resumes. Katherine, now tamed, advises all women to be humble, whereupon Petruchio happily invites her to Kiss Me, Kate.
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter.
Book by Bella and Samuel Spewack.
By arrangement with Musicscope Ltd.