Kiss Me, Kate
Tuesday 30th October 2012
Pretty much the closest a musical theatre society is likely to come to performing Shakespeare, Kiss Me, Kate is a traditional, old-fashioned musical. Incorporating a show within a show, we open on the backstage of a Baltimore based production of The Taming of the Shrew, where old flames Fred and Lilli are playing the leads and dredging up animosity of years gone by while unintentionally reigniting their affections, reflecting the volatile relationship of their Shrew characters Petruchio and Kate.
Fred was played with an assured confidence and relaxed ease by David Slater. Energetic and slick, this was a reliable performance with a clear and controlled singing voice. Lilli, his Kate, was performed by Julie Codling, full of attitude and coping very well with the huge vocal range required. The battle of their relationship was well played, with some venomous facial expressions and believably hateful delivery. However, Fred was more cowering under Lilli's rage than flirting, apologetic for his insensitivity rather than appealing for her love, which made it difficult to be convinced that she would run back to him at the finale. Some more work needed in the Direction to bring out the essential subtle line drawn between the couple's love and their hate.
The Bianca role, played by Lois Lane within the show, is taken on here by the beautiful Robyn Gowers. Sparklingly radiant in her glamorous outfits she shone as the comedy bimbo. Her misbehaving boyfriend Bill was played by Ollie Barrett - a wonderful dancer who moved around the stage with poise and captivating presence. Bianca's Shrew suitors were well done by Joe Gray and Mark Ellis, with some impressively entertaining acrobatics thrown in.
I understand any amateur society's desire to include as many members as they can in the chorus, but the stage at the Public Hall did not comfortably accommodate the large numbers of people in the group numbers. Fewer people on stage would have allowed more room for the mostly well executed choreography, which instead became smaller and less energetic as performers danced so close together. The sound generated from the singing of these group numbers was good however, especially the act two opener "Too Darn Hot".
It is a shame when the hard work and dedication of the performing talent in a show is plagued by a tardy backstage. Taking so long for a scene change that the actor must re-start a scene is unforgivable, although David Slater covered brilliantly, was entirely unfazed and the audience were generously forgiving. The lighting could perhaps have done with better notes rather than simply a script as there were a few early blackouts, and some shaky moments of follow-spotting too. Also some costume malfunctions along the way, but most disastrously for poor Robyn Gowers' skirt during her "Tom, Dick or Harry" number. She carried on valiantly though, with considerate help from her three suitors, as she barely missed a step of her choreography and kept smiling broadly throughout.
Old fashioned musical theatre, produced with some old fashioned charm. Spotting Oklahoma! advertised as their next show does not fill me with anticipation however. Perhaps it's time for WAOS to consider something more modern, to match the talented youth they are attracting into the society - a refreshing pace change for the members that may even attract a new audience.