Following on from Democracy and Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic theatre will be Kiss Me Kate, directed by award-winning Trevor Nunn as he returns to The Old Vic to direct this dazzling, Tony award-winning, Broadway classic.
The story involves the production of a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show’s director, producer, and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul with some gangsters.
Featuring music and lyrics by Cole Porter, including Too Darn Hot, Brush up your Shakespeare and Another Op’nin’, Another Show, this exuberant show-within-a-show throws together gun-toting gangsters, sparring actors and romantic entanglements.
Michael Billington gives Kiss Me Kate a 4* review at the Chichester Festival Theatre for The Guardian.
But it’s a joyous show that owes much to the brilliant, infinitely varied choreography of Stephen Mear. In Wunderbar, as danced by Fred and Lilli in their dressing room, he captures the romantic delicacy of old-style operetta. Too Darn Hot, led by Jason Pennycooke as Fred’s dresser, becomes a jazzy exploration of sexual tension with echoes of the rump-brandishing style of Bob Fosse. And Brush Up Your Shakespeare is performed by David Burt and Clive Rowe as a pair of gangsters who learned to love the Bard in the prison library, with a stateliness that reminded me of Laurel and Hardy.