Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through June 14, 2015
by Bernadette Johnson
|Photo Credit: T. Charles Ericson|
“Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” but not just any show. A review of "Kiss Me Kate" at Hartford Stage could be summed up in one word, “WOW,” but this tell-it-all interjection should be expanded upon a bit, for Director Darko Tresnjak has given his audience yet another crowd-pleaser.
"Kiss Me Kate" follows the backstage antics of a theatre company presenting a musical version of Shakespeare’s "The Taming of the Shrew" (a play within a play) starring divorced Broadway legends whose feelings for each other have obviously not totally dried out, though each is claiming a new love interest. Throw in their new flames and two gangsters who’ve come to the theatre to collect on a large gambling debt (and refuse to leave their charge unsupervised), and the plot—both onstage and backstage—thickens.
Terrific vocals render Cole Porter’s music and lyrics in grand fashion. Anastasia Barzee, in the dual roles of Lilli (offstage) and Katharine (onstage), the shrew whom none would wed, and Mike McGowan, as actor Fred Graham (offstage) and Petruchio, the suitor whose "Come to Wive It Wealthily," both have big rich voices, whether tenderly reminiscing with "Wunderbar" or belting out "Kiss Me, Kate." Barzee’s "I Hate Men" (as Katharine) is a showstopper—and does she ever hold that note! Megan Sikora, Fred Graham’s flirty, flighty sweetheart Lois Lane, persuasively declares the opposite as she proclaims (as Bianca) that either "Tom, Dick or Harry" will do. This number, an audience favorite, is great fun, the choreography bawdy and delightful.
Brendan Averett and Joel Blum, the determined gangsters, stand by their charge, Fred Graham, like decorative bookends, their costumes, and wigs accenting their mugged expressions, and hilarity definitely ensues their showpiece "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
Kudos to all involved in this toe-tapping extravaganza, from the leads to the entire company, from Tresnjak to costume designer Fabio Toblini, scenic designer Alexander Dodge, choreographer Peggy Hickey, music director Kris Kukul and all who contributed to making "Kiss Me Kate" the success that it is.
What’s not to like? Perhaps the fact that the show will only run through June 14.