Theater & Dance
Review
"Kiss Me, Kate"

By: Samuel and Bella Spewack, music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Produced by: Broadway By The Bay
Featuring: Amie Shapiro, Jessica Coker, Isaiah Boyd, Rich Matli, Leah Shesky, Zach Padlo, Daniel Cameron, Doug Brook, John Rinaldi, Ken Boswel, Ray D'Ambrosio, David Schiller, Mark Gonzalez, Charlie Fields, and ensemble members Kyle Arrouzet, Sofia Constandtini, Cindy Head, Lauren Herman, Andrew Krcht, Catrina Manahan, Mike Meadors, Kimberly Nearon, Amand Nguyen, Sean Okuniewicz, Terrence Lee "The T" Safffold, and Gabrielle Traub
Directed by: Milissa Carey
Choreographed by: Nicole Helfer
Fight choreography by: Josh Marx
Music direction by: Dolores Duran Cefalu
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: November 6 through November 22, 2015.
Where: Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City, California
Tickets: $47-$69. Call 650-579-5565 or visit http://broadwaybythebay.org

Amie Shapiro
Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin / Broadway By The Bay
Amie Shapiro as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine, foreground, in Broadway By The Bay's production of "Kiss Me, Kate," playing November 6 through November 22, 2015, at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. Call 650-579-5565 or visit http://broadwaybythebay.org.
Fabulous Cole Porter score,
great singing for 'Kiss Me, Kate'
1949 musical given a fine production and cast
at Broadway By The Bay in Redwood City
November 8, 2015

Broadway By The Bay's production of "Kiss Me, Kate" makes for a fun few hours in the theater.

Yes, it is almost 70 years old and often shows its age, both in how it's constructed and in its dated social references (How many people younger than 50 are going to get the joke when some chorus women make swoony noises when a man croons a baritone "Buh, buh, buh boo"?), but it's still fun.

And, it has Amie Shapiro as Lili Vanessi/Kate, and she is magnificent. And, it has Daniel Cameron as Fred Graham/Petruchio, and he is also fabulous.

"Kiss Me, Kate," written by Samuel and Bella Spewack, has music and lyrics Cole Porter, for whom it marked a sea change in his writing style — it was the first musical he wrote in which music and lyrics were so tightly integrated with the script. His songs actually advance the story.

It is the tale of a divorced couple of theater people who are working on a production of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." Lot of Shakespeare references and jokes throughout.

Porter's melody lines are killers, and require major singing chops, which both Shapiro and Cameron deliver with power and beauty. Even if nothing else worked in this show, directed by Milissa Carey, it'd be worth seeing just to hear Shapiro and Cameron sing. But there are many elements of this show that work just fine, thank you.

Shapiro is stunning, delivering melodies from soprano to alto ranges, and Cameron does the same, from tenor to baritone. Shapiro adds a lovely touch of vibrato, but never too much.

In Act One, Shapiro sings one of Porter's loveliest tunes, "So in Love," and Cameron sings the reprise in Act Two, and it is delightful to hear them both, for anybody who cares about singing.

And Cameron is a handsome enough guy, with an appropriate stage swagger, and he travels Graham's character arc quite well.

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But Shapiro is stunning, and wears the very stylish clothes of the 1940s/50s with considerable beauty, costume designer Valerie Emmi making the most of Shapiro's shapely figure. As a friend commented, though, Shapiro's figure is almost lost in the tent-like structures as has to wear as Kate, in the play within the play.

Broadway By The Bay, it has to be said, seems to have something against breasts. In the original publicity photos of Shapiro for this play, considerable cleavage is seen. But it seems to have been photo-edited out for the posters and programs.

Another stand-out singer is Leah Shesky, who plays Lois Lane, a nightclub performer who is trying to make it on the legit stage. It's a bimbo role, but she is a good singer. She delivers "Always True to You (In My Fashion)" with considerable panache. She is the love interest of Bill Calhoun, played by Zach Padlo, who does a fun job with the song "Bianca." Shesky is part of the fun quartet that performs "Tom, Dick or Harry," which is a funny tune.

Padlo, Shesky
Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin / Broadway By The Bay
Zach Padlo as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, left, and Leah Shesky as Lois Lane/Bianca in "Kiss Me, Kate."

Lots of good music here, including "Another Op'nin' Another Show," "I've Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua," "I Hate Men," and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," among others.

Isaiah Boyd is a stand-out dancer, who leads the ensemble in a fabulous dance scene that opens Act Two, "Too Darn Hot."

Ken Boswell and Ray D'Ambrosio are fun as a couple of gangsters who are trying to get an IOU paid off for their boss, although they pick on the wrong guy in one of a couple of internal comedy-of-errors subplots. They remind of the Looney Tunes characters Rocky and Mugsy, and Hubie and Bertie.

Terrific ensemble as well. Emmi dresses the women dancers in colorful short-shorts that look very much of the era and would probably get the beautiful, leggy women who wear them arrested in any rural community.

Dolores Duran-Cefalu and her orchestra do a fine job with the Porter score.

People were talking afterward about the show needing work, but one of my favorite moments, and which got some laughs and some applause, was when the two parts of the Fred and Lilli's dressing room sets didn't quite join neatly, but had to be slammed together by stage hands.

What hurts "Kiss Me, Kate," which won the very first Tony for a musical, in 1949, is the play and music itself. For instance, "Always true to You (In My Fashion)" is fun, but it goes on too long. And the gangsters sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," but while funny, it goes on too long.

On the other hand, there is a great fight scene when Fred and Lilli's real life intrude upon the stage for the production of "The Taming of the Shrew" in which they are starring. A wonderful combination of dance choreography and fight choreography. Nicole Helfer did a fine job with the dance choreography throughout — especially that fabulous "Too Darn Hot" scene. Josh Marx got some very funny bits mixed into the fight choreography.

I liked Andrew Kaufmann's scenic design because it was not the gigantic, overwhelming sets too often seen lately at Broadway By The Bay, such as for "My Fair Lady" and "Le Miserables." Those gigantic structures tend to overwhelm the human elements. Backstage at a theater, dressing rooms, an alley, the city of Padua were all effectively presented without losing the performers.

Michael Ramsaur's lighting design worked fine, and many thanks to sound designer Jon Hayward for keeping the vocals at a good level.

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com

Cameron, ensemble
Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin / Broadway By The Bay
Daniel Cameron as Fred C. Graham/Petruchio, left, and ensemble members Cindy Head, Mike Meadors, John Rinaldi, Terrence Lee Saffold, Andrew Kracht, Sean Okuniewicz, and Kyle Arrouzet in Broadway By The Bay's production of "Kiss Me, Kate," playing November 6 through November 22, 2015, at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. Call 650-579-5565 or visit http://broadwaybythebay.org.
Boyd, company
Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin / Broadway By The Bay
The Company of "Kiss Me, Kate," from left, includes Gabrielle Traub, Amanda Nguyen, Charlie Fields, Catrina Manahan, Terrence Lee Saffold Jr., Isaiah Boyd as Paul, Zach Padlo as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, Marc Conzalez, Lauren Herman, Sofia Constantini. The Broadway By The Bay's production of "Kiss Me, Kate," plays November 6 through November 22, 2015, at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. Call 650-579-5565 or visit http://broadwaybythebay.org.
Boswell, Cameron, D'Ambrosio
Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin / Broadway By The Bay
Ken Boswell as a Gangster, Daniel Cameron as Fred C. Graham/Petruchio, and Ray D’Ambrosio as a Gangster in Broadway By The Bay's production of "Kiss Me, Kate," playing November 6 through November 22, 2015, at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. Call 650-579-5565 or visit http://broadwaybythebay.org.


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