Cole Porter’s wonderful musical Kiss Me Kate was brought to life brilliantly in the 1950s film version of this musical starring Howard Keel as Fred Graham. The original Broadway version was very successful for Porter and opened in 1948 just after the 2nd World War. It won a fistful of Tonys. The show features one hit tune after another and plenty of sexy tongue in cheek. Some of this does sit a little uncomfortably in the 21st century. Drawn from its original basis in Shakespeare’s The taming of the shrew, the comedy themes of a woman overwhelmed by anger because she resists marriage are updated to the1940s where the two leading actors of a travelling troupe, now divorced, reignite the their love through a series of conflicts and songs. The soprano finally decides it is “better the devil you know” even if he is committed Don Juan of a baritone.
This production sparkles with a cast that relishes the characters and enjoys the fun and frivolity of the piece bringing it to life with great energy. The main characters of Fred and Lilli are strongly cast with confident polished performances from James Callum and Amy Neville. Callum’s speaking voice has a beautiful quality and flow well-suited to the delivery of the Shakespearean text and his mastery of the text based singing style is well displayed.
In the two secondary leads Logan MacArthur and Elizabeth Dobb balance singing dancing and comic acting with ease. The natural sweet tenor of MacArthur’s voice was particularly winning. The two gangsters were excellently preformed by David Emerson and Michael Wrightson and their pared back delivery of “Brush up your Shakespeare” was a highlight.
A surprise starry performance came from Tim Selby as the unlikable but hilarious General Howell – a parody on Republican values and puritan ethics. His character and accent work was impeccable and his delivery of the hit song “From this moment on” was some of the finest singing of the evening, totally capturing the style and flair of the Golden Era of song writing with beautiful line and richness of timbre.
The rest of the ensemble performed with great energy and commitment, particularly in the complex choreography of the big set numbers. The opening of the Act two “Too darn hot” was a real showstopper.
Saving the best to last the orchestra – a real swing band reminiscent of the great bands of the 1940s – supported with excellent stylistic playing and were led with clarity and verve by music director Brendan Flanagan
Bravo to all at Hornsby musical society for bringing this terrific show to the stage. A great night of musical theatre in a terrific theatre restaurant style venue with great sound.
REVIEW by Victoria Watson
PHOTOS by PerfectImages Photography