Saw a version of Cole Porter's 1948 musical Kiss Me Kate
but Sky Arts showing a live (when recorded) performance in London from Chris Hunt's 1999 revival. Premise: Fred (Brent Barrett) is directing and starring as Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew but he has a few troubles. His co-star is his film star ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Rachel York), he is sleeping with the woman playing Bianca: Lois (Nancy Kathryn Anderson, only film) but her boyfriend Bill (Michael Berresse) has got Fred in some trouble...
Slow start with "Another Op'nin', Another Show" having sound issues, not being that intresting and only fitfully amusing. It doesn't start clicking together for awhile and though showing signs of improving and some bright spots, we did consider quitting after half an hour. It does pick up but as a whole, I do wonder if I might have used my time better.
There are a lot of good aspects to the show: Good costumes and lighting, sound carries bar that early song. There are good songs like the romantic Wunderbar, So In Love
or comic ones like Why Can't You Behave?, Tom, Dick or Harry
and so on, they are well sung by good singers. It has a nice sense of comedy including a more adult sense of panto, the cast are capable of being comic and having a twinkle in their eye, some good comic side characters
, some good comic songs. Romances are good, the figures involved have good chemistry between them, they know how to make a good kiss, one roots for them even the under-written romance
. The play within a play stuff is great, seeing Taming of the Shrew in a straight way but also seeing it knowing what has gone on behind the scenes adds another dimension, adds extra comedy as things alter. The characters are entertaining, flawed and silly but also sweet at times, I did root for them.
The cast are good: Brent Barrett has charm, is funny and a strong voice but also a sense of arrogance, Rachel York is a strong singer, funny and offers a mixture of charm and terror. The star for me was Nancy Kathryn Anderson, she was funny and a strong singer but she had an extra twinkle, her scenes and songs were the best parts of the movie for me as she amused and draws one in. Some good comic cast in Teddy Kempner (also very scary), Jack Chissick, Nicholas Colicos, Colin Farrell (not the famous one) and solid support from Michael Berresse, Kaye Brown, Nick Winston (only film), Barry McNeill (only film) and Alan Vicary.
So good cast, funny, play within a play, good songs and romances, enjoyable characters, what turned a potential 7 out of ten musical into something I was glad to finish? Some of the issues were fairly minor: slow start, one romance very underwritten despite it's charm, a few patchy scenes, some of the romance songs were technically good but didn't click for me however they did click for my sister. However there was one flaw that wrecked the whole thing: Pace.
This is a two and a half hour show, it felt every inch of it. It was at it's best with scenes that moved quickly enough along, keeping me entertained but several scenes felt dragged out, killing the pace and souring the mood. Several of the songs I liked... I liked the first few verses as they were funny or sweet or catchy but by verse 105 (with or without the big ten minute dance number half way through), it had grown irritating and one prayed for it to stop. In the end, it undermined the good bits so much that the show suffered badly for it.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”