Welsh National Opera – Kiss Me, Kate
Wales Millennium Centre
Thursday 29th September 2016
WNO is thriving in its celebration of Shakespeare’s death. Though the production of Macbeth might be their “winter of discontent”, The Merchant of Venice was gloriously “full of sound and fury” (I just love to quote him!). An addition to this season is a musical and a rather famous and clever one at that: Kiss Me, Kate.
After last year’s plunge into a musical with a fairly decent Sweeney Todd, WNO are sharing this new version of the musical with Opera North. The work is a fabulously clever & witty night spent with Cole Porter and the Bard. We see a touring theatrical company on tour in the states, doing a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, simply entitled The Shrew, (as musicals often compress their names). The performers of the show soon find the roles they are playing mirror their own current circumstances in hilarious and often sassy ways.
The focus of the actors behind the scenes are the mobsters, the flowers/the note that goes with it and the all round feelings are things are not what they seem. Along with the almost on point WNO orchestra and chorus, the lead singers and dancers are a revelation of the musical form. Through humor, fantastic delivery of songs, spectacular dance number and they style to accompany the period of both eras seen in the show, this gradually becomes a night filled with enjoyment.
Musically, these are some of of Porter’s greatest songs: “Another op’nin’, [as it is], another show” is a grand start to the show, masterfully detailing the thrill of putting on brand new work, along with the fear that it could flop. The opening of “Why can’t you behave?” sound a lot like his other song I love Paris from High Society, though it is lovely all the same. Wunderbar, is a sumptuous German duet, as the two leads recount their time in an old operetta, evoking Vienna and a tonne of glitz and glamour. Kate, the shrew in question, belts out I hate men, in such a viscous way, Lilli who plays her is having method acting madness, as this fuels her true hate of the opposite sex.
Too darn hot (perhaps the shows most famous song), opens the second act, after the disastrous Shrew musical has been threatened by the mafia, actors walking off stage and even dead foul. Anyone who’s ever been on a stage during a performance, will easily tell you how like an inferno the lamps make it all feel. The character of Paul, has a sultry time here and the dancers/singers have an absolute blast. Perhaps the dancing would cool them down then? Lois, who sings Always true to you in my fashion, trolls the audience into thinking its over, only for at least two reprisals of the song to come on after applause. Some of the best lines are here, though are not always audible.
Brush Up Your Shakespeare is perhaps the most brilliant song from the show. After both mobsters enjoy their brief stint in The Shrew!, they sing to us about how we can pull “dames” by merely quoting the Bard. It’s very hard not for a smile to come to your face you and giggles to take over you with such lines as “But the poet of them all, who will start ’em simply ravin’, is the poet people call: The Bard of Stratford on Avon!”. It is an intensely catchy tune and a real joy to hear live.
— Welsh National Opera (@WNOtweet) October 6, 2016
The production, directed by Jo Davies, felt incredibly flat at the beginning. This soon faded, as the real shrew show began and we could all enjoy the dramatic irony unfolding before us as an “audience”.
See it when it returns to the Welsh capital.
Rating: 4 stars
Kiss Me, Kate returns to the WMC from 6th to the 10th December 2016.
An extended performance of Satie’s Vexations take place around Cardiff starting in October till new year, as a fundraiser for OCD UK, with such venues as the Wales Millennium Centre, St. Edward’s Church (of Cardiff), the Cardiff Masonic Lodge and the YMCA as locations. Follow #CardiffVexations on social media to see more! We also need more musicians, venues, rap artists and artists in all fields to help to complete the piece.
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