Kiss me Kate – Reviewed

David Knowles samples DULOG’s last theatrical offering of the year…

Assembly Rooms DULOG

Kiss me Kate, a musical retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ won a clutch of awards when first released in the 40’s and, while never being regarded as a ‘great’ musical still manages to occupy a soft spot in musical-theatre hearts. This production, rehearsed and performed in only 12 days was DULOG’s last theatrical offering of the year and, despite several serious problems was enjoyable and dainty.

 

The women led this musical from the front and Hannah Howie deserves huge credit for her performance of Kate. She sang beautifully, articulated well and dominated the stage. Her rendition of ‘I hate men’ was as amusing as it was worryingly formidable. Adele Pope’s dizzyingly flexible and powerful voice held together the weak opening section of the show and, although Daisy Newlyn struggled with her top notes, her sweet characterisation worked well over and against the domineering Howie.

 

Douglas Gibbs, playing the part of Fred Graham (Petruchio) gave the show a solid and watchable grounding. His energy was infectious and his singing tuneful and strong. Unfortunately poor diction saw lines disappearing and sometimes his control of the pace of scenes was poor.

 

Tom Wynter’s turn as Kate’s stolid army fiancé was a little more unsuccessful. Colourful characterisation was let down by a voice that simply could not match the quality around him.  Russell Park deserves a mention for his amusing turn as Kate’s father in Venice which had me giggling whenever he started speaking.

 

The music was, overall, quite good. The orchestra produced a suitably powerful sound and the levels between the singers and orchestra were well balanced. Occasionally, the strings sounded a little scratchy and the brass could not quite manage some of the trickier runs but again, it is important to stress that the musicians and MD should be proud of what they have achieved in such a short time.

 

Taken as a whole, Kiss Me Kate was rather an odd show. The initial scenes in Baltimore were generally weak, screaming ‘awkward student theatre’. Yet  the Baltimore sections did improve considerably after the interval.  In Baltimore many problems were apparent; the stage was cramped, promising choreography was stifled and scenes dragged. However, once we reached Venice I suddenly felt like I was watching a different show.

 

Welcome to Venice was choreographed wonderfully and laughed in the face of the size of the stage. ‘Too darn hot’ was simply fantastic, the dancing superbly executed (Emma Cave and Monika Kawai stood out, even from among their talented peers) and the singing (especially from Simon Lynch) accomplished.  The actors themselves seemed to feel a lot more at home when performing the ‘play’ sections of the show. Unhampered by attempting difficult Baltimore accents (there was not a single successful accent all night) the cast as a whole were able to relax a little and enjoy themselves.  This was epitomised by the relationship between Gibbs and Howie which was as physically amusing as it was carefully directed.

 

All said and done, DULOG should be proud of what they have achieved in Kiss Me Kate. Though there were problems with the show, it is no mean feat to create a lengthy Cole Porter musical from scratch in 12 days. Certain sections of the show were top notch and, it’s fair to say that a good time was had by all.