‘Opera North has a triumph on its hands’: KISS ME, KATE – West End ★★★★

In London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Reviews by Helen McWilliamsLeave a Comment

London Coliseum – until 30 June 2018
Guest reviewer: Francesca Mepham

Opera North has brought to the London Coliseum, its sensational touring production of perhaps Cole Porter’s finest work, the Musical Kiss Me, Kate.

From the moment the sumptuous overture is played by Opera North’s incredible orchestra, conducted by James Holmes, the high energy ride begins, that you are delighted to be swept along upon. The opening number ‘Another Op’nin, Another Show’, performed by Hattie (Aiesha Pease) and the ensemble, is executed with charisma and introduces the ‘show within a show’ genre, that Kiss Me, Kate is based upon, which is Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew.

The love-hate relationship, of the show’s divorced actor and director Fred Graham (Quirijn de Lang) and Lilli Vanessa (Stephanie Corley), finds its stride, when they are playing the roles of Petruchio and Kate, compared to the earlier scenes, where the fire and bite is very much solely felt from Corley. The passion in Cole Porter’s masterpiece ‘So In love’ is performed separately by each character, with honesty and warmth, which they never find a way to show each other. A depiction of Petruchio ‘spanking’ Kate is slightly uncomfortable viewing and dated, its inclusion in the production today is rather curious.

Wit and comedy are the real highlights of this production, with Bella and Samuel Spewack’s dazzling book, with Jo Davies having kept the staging quite minimal, which works tremendously well as this a character-driven show. The First Gunman (Joseph Shovelton) and Second Gunman (John Savournin) are a joyous double act which captures the screwball comedy of the forties era, but with a great freshness. The duo’s number ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ is a stand-out number of the show, as is another outstanding moment in Act Two, with Zoë Rainey’s quirky and stunning rendition of ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’ as the ditzy nightclub-dancer-turned-actress Lois Lane.

Jack-Wilcox as Hortensio Zoe Rainey as Bianca Piers Bate as Gremio and Alan Burkitt as Lucentio
Will Tuckett’s choreography was shown to its full strength by the ensemble numbers most notably Too Darn Hot, which Stephane Anelli as Paul showed great charm. The real revelation of the show was Alan Burkitt as lovable rogue actor Bill Calhoun, whose jaw-dropping solo tap number was mesmerizing. Zoë Rainey also displayed great pizzaz with the choreography, giving one of the most enchanting performances I have seen in a long time, with her portrayal of both Lois Lane and Bianca.
Kiss Me, Kate is full of moments, that remind you of the magic of Cole Porter’s timeless music, when performed by a truly remarkable cast and orchestra. Opera North have a triumph on their hands, which will enthrall audiences, lucky enough to see this classy production. Wunderbar!

Photo Credits: Tristam Kenton

Helen McWilliams
Helen McWilliams is a Midlands-based reviewer, but is happy travelling anywhere and everywhere to pursue her love of the theatre. Since 2013, she has been combining her passions for writing and theatre in her Entertainment Views site (formerly Break A Leg). She also enjoys interviewing actors, writers and other professionals from the business. Helen tweets at @entsviews.
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Helen McWilliams
Helen McWilliams is a Midlands-based reviewer, but is happy travelling anywhere and everywhere to pursue her love of the theatre. Since 2013, she has been combining her passions for writing and theatre in her Entertainment Views site (formerly Break A Leg). She also enjoys interviewing actors, writers and other professionals from the business. Helen tweets at @entsviews.