KISS ME KATE reviewed by Frank Thompson
Okay...I don't want to sound like a typical
small-town-come-to-the big-city theatregoer, but this is, quite honestly, the
best show I have ever seen! (London,
Broadway, and LJCC included!:-) The overall pacing, excitement, and pure
ENERGY of the production were beyond any I have ever seen. Even more
impressive is the fact that this show has been running for months and months.
As the two feuding lovers, Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, Brian Stokes-Mitchell
and Marin Mazzie absolutely sparkle with electricity and chemistry. From
Mazzie's wild rages to Mitchell's booming pomposity, they create what can
only be described as three-dimensional cartoon characters. Both have
phenomenal singing voices, of course, and the comic (and romantic) timing is
dead-on perfect. Particularly crowd-pleasing were Mazzie's "I Hate
Men" number (which literally stopped the show for a 30 second-or-so
burst of midsong applause) and Mitchell's ode to lost freedoms, "Where Is
The Life That Late I Led"
As most probably know, KATE is a play-within-a-play,
involving a touring troupe performing Shakespeare's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
Fred and Lilli also play the roles of Petruchio and Katherine in SHREW, and
their onstage feuds mirror their offstage battles. The "real world"
complications are made more interesting through a fake IOU one of the other
actors has signed under the name of Fred Graham, prompting the arrival of two
Runyonesque gangsters who wind up joining the show. Also most memorable was
the performance of Amy Spanger as Lois Lane (no, not THAT Lois Lane...) Lois
also plays Bianca in SHREW, and Spanger's kittenish sexuality
and husky squeak played spectacularly in her "Always True To You"
Choreography was another star of this show, ranging
from the balletic to the acrobatic to the purely athletic.
One new addition to the revival was the reconception
of the character Harrison Howell (played by Ron Holgate) as a blustery Army
General (he was a presidential advisor in the old script.) Holgate played the
role with gusto, but I must admit that I liked it better in the old version.
That is the only vaguely negative comment I can make, and believe me, it's a
minor MINOR criticism.
Bottom line...if you're in NYC, run, don't walk
(sprint if possible) to see KISS ME KATE.
The Martin Beck Theatre, 302 W 45th St.