Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Kiss Me, Kate" is lighthearted fare

My freelance review:
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has Cole Porter's classic Broadway hit Kiss Me, Kate as its lighthearted, holiday season offering.

Kiss Me, Kate is structured as a musical within a musical. The interior play is a Broadway-bound musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. For its lead roles, suave and charming Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, the glamorous and high-tempered Lilli Vanessi, and their backstage bickering erupts into onstage mayhem. Add in some Shakespeare-savvy gangsters who arrive to settle an old score and a couple of ensemble members who are trying to keep their romance afloat.

The Rep's production aims big. Big dance numbers and lots of Cole Porter classic songs (although, at two hours and fifteen minutes plus intermission, some judicious trimming would have helped the overall pace of the show)... huge, revolving sets... detailed, elaborate costumes.

The Rep advertises the show as "witty and romantic." While the humor in Kiss Me, Kate is indeed witty -- clever, quick and inventive, surprisingly there isn't much of a romantic feel to the production.

As one of the gangsters, Rep veteran Joneal Joplin is a scene stealer -- watch for him delivering plenty of deadpan humor wearing a sombrero during The Taming of the Shrew.

Kiss Me, Kate plays through December 28 at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in Webster Groves.

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