KISS ME, KATE should bring comedy, heart, big production numbers, and a classic big finale. But Renaissance Music Theatre’s production is a few weeks of rehearsal away from capturing the magic of Cole Porter’s smash hit.
The musical revolves around a theater company about to put up a production of The Taming of the Shrew in Baltimore, Maryland. This production is led by a failed star of the stage and screen Lilli (Caroline Hubbard), and her ex-husband, the egotistical Fred Graham (Fernando Gonzales). The two still have feelings for each other and eventually fall back in love. Throw in some gangsters, chorus members, generals, and you have KISS ME, KATE.
Renaissance claims to revolutionize such classic musicals and produce them under a whole new light. Besides an interesting ending, little about this production is different to the original vision. The problems begin with some weak performances. Gonzales is not able to pick up what little choreography he has and his voice is not suited for the role. Opposite the clueless Gonzales, Caroline Hubbard lacks heart as Lilli. The gangsters, played decently by Doug Cashell and Rusty Miller, lacked any passion in the usual show-stopping, laughter inducing song, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and leave the audience disappointed. Steven Ciapanna gives a nice portrayal of General Harrison Howell, although his character does not change much from his other roles he plays. The ensemble work is unexcited and unpolished.
But even in this flop there are some hidden gems. Elexis Morton gives us some chilling vocals for the opening number and provides the heart for the entire piece. Madelyn St. John gives a passable performance as the fun-loving Lois Lane and her love interest, Bill Calhoun, was played with a sweet singing voice from Garrison Carpenter. Darius J. Manuel gives us an exciting, and passion driven performance in “Too Darn Hot” and sings/dances like a champion. That number leaves you wanting to see more of that production of KISS ME, KATE; but alas, we are stuck with this slow-moving version.
Director/choreographer/music director/set & costume designer/conductor Lance Moore has a bit too much on his plate. Lighting design by Joshua Klein was suitable, but Moore’s set design looks almost like kindergartener grabbed a paintbrush and attacked the set.
It’s hard to say what is “reinvented” about this KISS ME, KATE. It’s a high school drama club production of the Cole Porter classic for $30 a ticket. That “big first night” is already long out of the hat. [Adrienne Theater Skybox, 2030 Sansom St.] November 28-December 14; renaissancemusictheatre.com