‘Kiss Me Kate’ Proves To Be Brilliant Musical Hit
By Marvin Felheim (University Professor of English)
To begin with, "Kiss Me, Kate" (the Civic Theatre production which began a five-day run in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre last night) is a brilliant musical show, full of swingy Cole Porter tunes and with some of the cleverest lyrics ever written.
Then, we must be grateful for the director like Jerry Bilik. He keeps the pace brisk and rhythmical; together with his choreographer, Mac Joubran, he has invented some delightful routines. Add the very practical sets of Alice Crawford, the colorful costumes of Eileen Mengel, the efficient lighting designs of Tom Ault and the makings for a pleasant evening have been established.
The details one remembers with most enjoyment were some of the outstanding musical numbers: "We Open in Venice,” “Too Darn Hot" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare” — these were truly distinctive by any standards, exciting and bouncy and in the very best traditions of our musical stage.
Individual performers whose vocalizing and acting were show-stopping included Robert Taylor’s “Where Is The Life That Late I Led?”; Sheilah Bernstein’s “I Hate Men”; and Sunny LaFave’s “Tom, Dick or Harry” in which she was notably assisted by the Suitors (Roger Trim, J. R. Peterson, Gary Wold). One must append a footnote of appreciation for the especially fine voices of Taylor and Miss Bernstein.
The spirit of “Kiss Me, Kate” is its most significant quality. The book is never condescending or cute. It has real wit, a great deal of variety and just the kind of fun which Cole Porter and the Spewaks knew a musical based on Shakespeare should have. Porter's very skillful use of the chorus is especially obvious in this production. The boys and girls are on hand when needed and their function is to add depth, color and a change of peace to main line of the action. I would like to name all the members of the Civic Theatre’s Chorus; they were bright; they had mastered their routines; they deserved a curtain call all their own.
There are, of course, a whole corps of backstage people who also merit our thanks for their share in providing this truly relaxing and pleasant evening — those people whose names appear inconspicuously under the headings of Production or Business Staff. They are all to be congratulated. But surely they must agree with my premise: Working on the production of a worthwhile piece such as “Kiss Me, Kate” is, to be sure, a I challenge but it also has its own very meaningful rewards.
To conclude, I want to name specifically Bob Green and Jerry Patterson as First Man and Second Man respectively; they sing Cole Porter’s thoroughly delightful “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” which is the very essence of this show; this tune will be humming its way through your ears and onto your lips all spring.
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
Theater - Reviews
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