Thursday, 9 May 2013

Kiss Me Kate @ Old Vic

When I first heard about the new production of Kiss Me Kate at the Old Vic, directed by Trevor Nunn and with a stellar cast, I knew I couldn't miss it. And yet with one thing or another it suddenly came to four days before closing night. Through a real stroke of luck I managed to get a last-minute ticket, and thanks to the Old Vic's fantastic £12 for under 25s ticket offer, I got spectacular value for money.

Cole Porter's classic 1948 backstage comedy is bursting with ridiculously catchy hit songs, from Another Op'ning, Another Show, So In Love and Too Darn Hot. Sam and Bella Spewack's book is also incredibly funny. It's no surprise then that, since winning the first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949, the show has frequently been revived on Broadway and in the West End, as well as being adapted to film in 1953. In 2003, Great Performances broadcast a London revival production starring Brent Barrett and Rachel York, which had since then been my definitive Kiss Me Kate.

Nunn had his work cut out to put his own stamp on this musical, then, but he certainly succeeded. Starting life as the triumph of the 2012 Chichester Festival season, the new production won critically acclaim above all for its completely reinvented, high energy dance routines from Chichester Festival Theatre's resident choreographer Stephen Mear. The monochrome costumes and set-design for the show-within-a-show Taming of the Shrew sections was a particularly striking choice, marking a clear distinction between the two sides of the show (and looking really classy at the same time). Turning Always True to You in My Fashion into a duet was a bold choice that really worked and brought new meaning from an otherwise overly familiar song. It is the stellar cast, however, who really deserve the credit for the incredible success of this new production. Multi-award winner Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne sizzled as Hollywood star Lilli Vannesi/Katherine and her ex-husband, director and verbal sparing partner Fred Graham/Petruchio, showing off both really powerful voices and comic talent, while Adam Garcia (of Coyote Ugly and Got to Dance fame) wowed us with his breathtaking dancingas Bill Calhoun/Lucentio.

According to Nunn, this production has been a very long time coming. It was certainly worth the wait.

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