Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Tuesday, August 17, 2004
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Photo: Ross Warren

Kiss Me Kate

Depot Theatre, Westport NY

Cole Porter's KISS ME KATE is structured as a play-within-a-play in which a touring company is presenting a musical version of Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW. As a result we get backstage looks at the company, a bit of Shakespeare and some great Cole porter songs, with a couple of inefficient gangsters thrown in for good measure.

It always amazes me that a big musical can comfortably fit on the Depot Theatre stage. Tyler Miller has designed a clever set with various fold-out panels that work smoothly and also allow for a couple of big dance numbers. James Coleman's lighting is effective and Jean Brookman's costumes are spiffy, especially those for the leading lady.

Musical Director Norma Curley has done her usual excellent job with the singers and her piano accompaniment is both supportive and sensitive. I was pleased to finally hear her famous train medley. At one point Amtrak made an extended stop outside to take on passengers. The lights dimmed, the actors paused, and Miss Curley played "Chatanooga Choo Choo", "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe" all tastefully combined and interwoven with "Why Can't You Behave". Quite a tour de force!

As for the cast, the chorus is generally strong with some very good dancers. However Mark Chmiel and James Coleman, who also play Hortensio and Gremio, don't seem comfortable with their Shakespeare dialogue. Byron St. Cyr, on the other hand, does a very nice job with "Too Darn Hot".

As Hattie, Emily King gets "Another Op'nin', Another Show" off to a slow start, but it soon picks up and develops into a rousing number with entertaining choreography. Niels Miller is excellent as Batista, especially in his post-wedding scene with Petruchio.

As Lucentio, Michael Ramey is very good. He's a good actor and does well with "Bianca", the obligatory tap number and a rather silly song. Unfortunately his opposite number, Stephanie Cedro as Bianca, was obviously cast because of her dance ability. She falls woefully short in terms of singing and acting. Her performance of "Always True to You" is painfully inadequate.

As Harrison Howell John Moss is appropriately stuffy, and is enjoyable during the recital of his bucolic day. Paul C. Kelly and Scott Schafer as the two gangsters stop the show with "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". They're both very funny and Mr. Schafer is a master of subtle response and comic timing.

The two leads, Cary Barker as Kate and Tom Treadwell as Petruchio, are both excellent. They have good chemistry together and their Shakespeare scenes are solid. They sound great together on "Wunderbar" and have fun with the one-upmanship staging. Miss Barker is especially good on "I Hate Men". Mr. Treadwell has wonderful fun with the lyrics of "Where Is the Life That Late I Led." Not only is it well sung, but he gets every bit of the humor. His reprise of "So In Love" is really nice, filled with subtle emotional shadings.

Laurie Brongo's choreography is very good especially for "Too Darn Hot" and her staging for "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" is hilarious. Michael Unger has done a nice directing job, particularly of the Shakespeare scenes. This is a huge show and he's managed to pull all the elements together to make an entertaining whole. Every time I see a Cole Porter show I realize that his was an era of great song writers. The cliché "they don't write 'em like that any more" is a cliché because it's true.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of KISS ME KATE gets four and one fourth boxcars. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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