Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter.Queanbeyan Players at Queanbeyan Bicentennial Centre, May 23. Director/Designer: Marie Jensen. Musical Director: John Agnew. Choreography: Katelyn Keys. Season: May 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 and June 1, 1996, at 8 pm. Matinee May 26 at 2 pm. Amateur.
Bright, colourful costumes: strong medieval Italianate flavour in the Shakespearean scenes. Bright colourful music: strong early 20th Century American flavour throughout. Good to very good voices in all the lead roles. Stylish choreography, though the flavour was post-1990. Except for the tap: a fair imitation of Gene Kelly. Strong chorus singing and dancing. Nifty gangster character roles. Neat script: play within a play - does Petruchio/Fred Graham (Trent Morris) deserve Katherine/Lilli Vanessi (Mary O'Brien)? I thought Mary had the edge on Trent in musicality and acting, but maybe this was Shakespeare/Porter's character shining through. Lois/Bianca (Judith Satrapa) and Bill/Lucentio (Rodney Beaver) were a well balanced pair: all four provided a core strength to the production.
It's unfair that amateur groups - who provide many budding and experienced performers with the opportunity to entertain - have to put up with such dreadful barns as the Bicentennial Centre: no depth to the stage, awful lighting arrangements, tricky amplification problems, difficult sight-lines and hard plastic seats (though at least it was heated). The old re-worked Nova Cinema I remember from 15 years ago wasn't much worse. I notice the Queanbeyan Players' patrons include the Mayor, Frank Pangallo, and the City Manager, Hugh Percy. How about a proper theatre to go with the patronage, eh? Or maybe that would be Too Darn Hot!
Is Kiss Me Kate politically correct? Probably no more or less than The Taming of the Shrew, I think. Much depends on how Kate's last speech is performed. Shakespeare's comedy demands a strong ironic tone to allow us to believe in Kate and Petruchio's sense of humour and finally recognised equality in love: I'm not sure this comes through in Mary/Lilli's performance of Kate's final song, but this could be Porter's fault. The music sounds definitely romantic without suggesting irony. I found it easy to believe that Shakespeare, when he appeared at the end, had just come from David Williamson's Dead White Males and was seriously re-considering his options, at least in relation to Cole Porter's residual performing rights.
Kiss Me Kate is a lively, competent production which manages to defeat the terrors of the Bicentennial Centre. Worth a visit.
(c) Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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