The Music Circus is brushing up on its Shakespeare with this week’s sprightly production of Cole Porter’s classic “Kiss Me Kate,” under the direction of Glenn Casale and choreographed by Dan Mojica.
The particular production is based on director Michael Blakemore and choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s 1999 revival of the show, which won the 2000 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
“Kiss Me Kate” is the story of a touring Shakespeare Company, now presenting Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Starring as Petruchio and Katharine are the once-married, now acrimoniously divorced Fred Graham (Paul Schoeffler) and Lilli Vanessi (Lynn Wintersteller). It is obvious that there is still a spark between them, which erupts in a full fledge on-stage confligration in the middle of Act 1 of the production and threatens to close down the show.
Schoeffler and Wintersteller are superb. Their feelings for each other, both positive and negative sizzled on the stage. Wintersteller’s Lilli, as well as her character Katharine, have fiery temperaments, to which the actress gives full rein in her “I hate men” in which she displays a voice which can range from operatic quality to guttersnipe as she growls her intense hatred of the opposite sex.
Schoeffler is everything one could want in a leading man. He’s tall, dark, handsome, suave, a bit sardonic and a take-charge guy, yet his sensitivity spills out in his “So In Love.” As Petruchio, his “Where is the life that once I led?” was outstanding.
Robert Stoeckle is General Harrison Howell, Lilli’s fiancé, the domineering military man who is more Petruchio than Petruchio himself.
Toni Trucks is irresistible as Lois Lane, playing the role of Bianca in the play within the play. She’s in love with Bill (Kevin Spirtas), but is a gold digger who can’t keep away from other men, yet, as she tells him she’s “Always true to you (in my fashion).”
Spirtas is a man in love, who also has a gambling problem. (The problem is merely a ruse to add two additional characters to the plot and is never really taken all that seriously.)
Stealing the show, in roles designed to steal the show, are Barry Pearl and Herschel Sparber, known as “Man 1" and “Man 2,” who are thugs trying to collect a debt. Both are hilarious and their “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” stops the show (for several well-deserved encores).
Bernard Dotson is Paul, a role which really has no function in either the story of Fred and Lilli or Katharine and Petruchio, but gives a chance for a great dance number, “Too Darn Hot,” in which he sizzles.
Dan Mojica’s choreography is especially good in the ensemble numbers.
“Kiss Me Kate” has lots of references which date the piece and no woman is ever happy when Katharine subjugates herself to Petruchio, but this production is a real gem and offers patrons a rollicking good time.