★★★★☆ | Kiss Me, Kate – Crucible Theatre
Written by Cole Porter in the 1940’s, Kiss Me, Kate is a delightful, old-fashioned musical, combining the classic elements of mistaken identity, a will they/won’t they love story, a bit of swindling and a bunch of likeable characters all interwoven with an appealing collection of songs by one of the best composers of the era.
Porter’s tale stages a play within a play, telling the story of Fred Graham, an actor and director who casts his ex-wife as his co-star; and finds himself in hot water when one of his other leading men signs off a gambling debt in his name. He tries desperately to keep his musical production of The Taming Of The Shrew on track, as a couple of inept gangsters show up to collect the debt and Grahams relationship with his ex-wife sways between love and hate. But as everything falls apart and the backstage bickering starts to mirror the story on stage, Graham does everything he can in ensuring that the show must go on.
The songs from Kiss Me, Kate are some of Porter’s most sterling work, with an overarching jazzy vibe which made the musical numbers delightfully catchy. The songs still sparkle and fizz with wit and humour, and there is a show-stopping number at the opening of each act. “Another Openin’, Another Show”, “Tom, Dick or Harry” and “Too Darn Hot” were all proper toe-tappers, and the multiple reprises of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” were delightfully laughter inducing.
Edward Baker Duly and Rebecca Lock were superb as the quibbling couple, whilst Dex Lee was criminally underused as Bill and his triple threat status certainly makes him one to watch; but stealing most of their scenes were Delroy Atkinson and Joel Montague as the ham-fisted mobsters. Paul Foster directs with a steady hand, whilst Strictly choreographer Matt Flint keeps the musical numbers light and fun. Only the costume and set design let the show down slightly, with too much of a cartoonish feel to both to really work.
Kiss Me, Kate is firmly established as a classic, traditional musical and this is a fun, frenetic and frivolous production which, as a sucker for an old-fashioned musical, I found very hard to resist.
Kiss Me, Kate is at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until 12th January 2018. Visit their website at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk for details and tickets.