Theatre review - Kiss Me, Kate

Posted on: 09 January 2013 by Agatha Cheng

Laurence Green enjoys the multi-award winning classic musical at the Old Vic.

That multi-award winning classic Broadway musical that combines wit, charm, energy and a glorious Cole Porter score has been reinvented by Trevor Nunn in hid splendid production of Kiss ME Kate, first staged at the Chichester Festival Theatre last summer and now at the Old Vic in London.

The year is 1948 and an American company is touring with a show called Shrew – the Musical, a song-and-dance version of Shakespeare’s battle-of-the-sexes play. Its leads, Fred and Lilli, are a recently divorced, still bickering couple whose temperaments mirror those of the characters they play in the show, Petruchio and Katherine. Lilli, though, still harbours feelings for Fred – so a bouquet delivered to the wrong dressing room sees all hell break loose.

This slick sassy musical begins on a high note with the lively number Another Op’nin, Another Show which opens with a solo voice and a few notes tapped out on a piano before it builds up tremendous vocal and choreographic energy – a pointer to what we can expect. Sam and Bella Spewack’s book in full of comic energy and great one-liners, while also finding moments of tenderness and hurt amid the general joie de vivre.

Stephen Mear’s high-octane choreography truly turns up the razzle dazzle, especially during the spectacularly staged Too Darn Hot, while Robert Jones’s designs atmospherically evoke a tatty old touring theatre.

Cole Porter’s great lyrics and music are both witty and unforgettable, most notably in Lilli’s rendition of I Hate Men, which is a hilarious highlight, and includes, apart from those already mentioned, the hit songs So I Love Wunderbar, Brush Up Your Shakespeare, and Always True To You In My Fashion.

Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne ignite some fizzing on-stage chemistry as the furious feusty Lilli and the suave Fred (‘two lovers who can’t live with each other and can’t live without each other’) respectively, while Holly Dale Spencer impresses as a gold-digging nightclub singer and David Burt and Clive Rowe offer a deliciously deadpan double act as hoodlums with a taste for the greasepaint. Strong support comes from Mark Heenehan as a womanising general, determined to marry Lilli, and Adam Garcia as the ditzy blonde’s lackadaisical partner.

This certainly is a show which will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step!

Runs until March 2.

Box office: 0844 871 7628

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