Art mirrors life in Kiss Me, Kate.
In 1935, America’s pre-eminent acting couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, were starring in The Taming of the Shrew on Broadway. They quarreled off- as well as on-stage, much to the amusement of the cast and crew, including a stagehand named Arnold Saint-Subber. Twelve years later Saint-Subber, now a Broadway producer, approached Cole Porter with the idea to write a musical play-within-a-play based on that experience. Porter wrote the music and lyrics, Sam and Bella Spewak wrote the script, and audiences have enjoyed the finished product – timeless as all great theatre is – for over 70 years.
Fred Graham is producing and starring in a musical version of the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew, which is having tryouts in Baltimore. Potential backers are in the audience and it’s essential that all goes well for the opening show. Playing Kate opposite his Petruchio is Graham’s ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, now a movie star. Although she is engaged to marry an Army general, Harrison Howell, she still has feelings for Graham – up until the time when she accidentally receives a bouquet of flowers from him. He had meant them for the second lead in the show, Lois Lane (playing Bianca, one of Kate’s sisters.) At the same time, Lane’s boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, who is playing Lucentio, has signed a $10,000 gambling IOU to a mobster – using Fred Graham’s name. Two gangsters show up at the theatre to collect the debt, and Graham needs to use all his ingenuity to ensure that the show goes on.
2017-2018 is the tenth season of the Candlelight Dinner Theatre, and Kiss Me, Kate is the 50th production in their history.
Fred Graham/Petruchio is played by a newcomer to the Candlelight Stage, Scott Hurst Jr. He has the baritone voice and operatic stage presence needed to “Wive it Wealthily in Padua,” and he and Heather McClain as Lilli Vanessi/Kate work well together. Comic timing is needed during “Kiss Me, Kate” that brings the first act to a close in rousing fashion, and Hurst and McClain as well as the entire cast deliver.
McClain is at home on the Candlelight stage, having played Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street and the Wicked Stepmother in The Slipper and the Rose. Bob Hoppe, most recently Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, shows off his dancing skills as the lousy gambler but good actor Bill Calhoun during “It’s Too Darn Hot,” and Lisa Kay Carter as the Brooklyn-accented Lois/Bianca gets laughs in that pivotal role – especially singing “I’m Always True to You in My Fashion” to the departed back of her disgruntled boyfriend Calhoun.
The two gangsters – the tall and the small – as played by Brian Murray and Eli Stewart – deliver the needed menace at the start of the play and a hilarious turn as toughs caught up in the action and ready to let their suppressed thespian sides out in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”
Director Robert Michael Sanders delivers a crisp, fast-paced production and Kate Vallee’s choreography delights as always.
Remaining Candlelight Dinner Playhouse 2017-2018 Season
Kiss Me, Kate runs until 15 April, 2018. Man of La Mancha comes next, from 26 April to 17 June 2018, and the season finale is Newsies, 28 June – 26 August, 2018.
The cast of Kiss Me, Kate
- Fred Graham/Petruchio – Scott Hurst Jr
- Lilli Vanessi/Kate – Heather McClain
- Lois Lane/Bianca – Lisa Kay Carter
- Bill Calhoun/Lucentio – Bob Hoppe
- Paul – Leo Batlle
- Hattie – Sarah Grover
- Gangster 1 – Brian Murray
- Gangster 2 – Eli Stewart
- Harry Trevor/Baptista – Kent Sugg
- General Harrison Howell – David Wygant
- Ralph (Stage Manager) – Elliot Clough
- Mikeal Mcbeth
- Thomas P. Castro
- Susanna Ballenski
- Sara Kowalski
- Broc Timmerman
- Harmony Livingston
- Ethan Knowles
- Eric Heine
- Stephen Charles Turner
- Sky Cash
- Cole Amarine
- Piano/Conductor – Victor Walters
- Trombone – Ben Bontrager, Josh Ceciliani
- Reeds – Kaitlin Fahy, Kwami Barnett
- Trumpet – Josh Margheim
- Percussion – John Meriwether
- Bass – Ori Bitton, Jason Lenz
- Director – Robert Michael Sanders
- Choreographer – Kate Vallee
- Music Director – Victor WAlters
- Sound Designer – Phillip Baugh
- Scenic Designer – Aaron Scheckler
- Lighting Designer – Emily Maddox
- Wigs – Debbie Spauer
- Costume Designer – Deb Faber
- Props Master – Becky Warner
- Wardrobe – Jusy Ernst
- Technical Director – Dave MacEachen
- Scenic Artist – Joel Adam Chavez
- Master Electrician/Light Board Operator – Nathaniel Quinn
- Sound Board Operator – Jake Rogers