Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate became a Broadway sensation in 1948, winning five Tony® Awards (including Best Musical) and running for four years. The score features such memorable songs as "It's Too Darn Hot," "Wunderbar," "So In Love," and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," and remains as popular today as it was in its day.
In the show, a theater company is rehearsing a performance of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, while the performer's backstage lives intrude upon their onstage roles. Throw in a bouquet of flowers given to the wrong lady, a large gambling debt, and a couple of gangsters, and it all adds up to great family fun!
Performances of Kiss Me, Kate are part of a global commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, as are those of Julius Caesar, Georg Friedrich Handel's popular opera inspired by Anthony and Cleopatra.
|Music and Lyrics||Cole Porter|
|Book||Sam and Bella Spewack|
|Dance Captain||Jamie Rafacz|
|Scenic Designer||Narges Norouzi|
|Costume Designer||Oran Wongpandid|
|Assistant Costume Designer||Rachel Wyatt|
|Lighting Designer||Bob Steineck|
|Hair and Makeup Designer||Taylor Rouse|
|Assistant Director||Briana Sosenheimer|
|Stage Manager||Kathleen Stakenas|
|Assistant Stage Managers||TBD|
|Fred Graham/Petruchio||Isaiah Feken|
|Harry Trevor/Baptista||Matthew Maisano|
|Lois Lane/Bianca||Robin Bradley|
|Lilli Vanessi/Katherine||Christina Overton|
|Stage Doorwoman/Ma||Elizabeth Bouk|
|Bill Calhoun/Lucentio||Miles Wilson-Toliver|
|First Gangster||Valerie Hosler|
|Second Gangster||Dimitrie Lazich|
|Harrison Howell||Scott Timm|
|Nathaniel/Cab Driver||Matthew Cummings|
|Padua Priest||Sara Beth Shelton|
|Wardrobe Mistress||Jennifer Wilson|
Kiss Me, Kate is presented by arrangement with
TAMS WHITMARK LIBRARY, INC
560 Lexington Ave, New York NY 20022.
Kiss Me, Kate is sung in English.
Running time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
The cast of a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is in rehearsal. Fred Graham, the director and producer, is starring as Petruchio. His former wife, Lilli Vanessi, will play Katherine. They argue. Lilli is angry because Fred is pursuing a young actress, Lois Lane, who is cast in the role of Bianca. At the conclusion of the rehearsal, Lois' boyfriend appears. He is cast as Lucentio but has missed the rehearsal because of a gambling spree. He informs her that he has signed an IOU for $10,000 in Fred's name.
Before the opening Lilli shows Fred her engagement ring. It is from a Washington insider, Harrison Howell. She reminds Fred that it is the anniversary of their divorce. Suddenly two gangsters appear to collect the $10,000 from Fred. He, naturally, denies any knowledge of the IOU. Thy obligingly allow him time to reconsider his denial, promising to return later. Flowers arrive from Fred, which Lilli believes are for her. They are really intended for Lois, but Lilli does not look at the card, preferring, she says, to read it later.
The performance begins, embodying Shakespeare's well-known plot. In the wings Lilli finds an opportunity to read the card. In her anger she walks onto the stage—-off-cue—and begins to pummel Fred while everyone else in the cast does his best to remain in character.
Offstage, and in a fury, Lilli declares that she is leaving the show. The gangsters reappear, and Fred tells them that Lilli's departure will force cancellation of the production. If she goes, he tells them, he will not be able to honor the IOU. In the midst of their discussion the curtain rises on the scene of Katherine and Petruchio's marriage. The gangsters—now in Shakespearean costume—make sure that Lilli cannot escape. Petruchio implores Katherine for a kiss. She refuses, so in true Shakespearean fashion Fred lifts Lilli over his shoulder and carries her offstage.
During the intermission, the cast has relaxed in the alley behind the theater, but everyone finds the weather too oppressive. Shortly, the play continues. Petruchio tries to tame Katherine while at the same time mourning his lost bachelor days. Offstage, as Lilli's fiancé Harrison Howell looks for Lilli, he encounters Lois. She recognizes him as a former lover but promises not to reveal the fact to Lilli. When Harrison does find Lilli, she complains that she is being forced by gangsters to stay in the theater.
(To untangle the plot) the gangsters discover that their chief has been killed and realize that the IOU is no longer valid. In the meanwhile Lilli flees—without Howell. Even without her the play goes on. Then at the last minute, true comedienne that she is, Lilli reappears for Katherine's final and famous declaration, "I am ashamed that women are so simple." With that Fred and Lilli—wordlessly—are reconciled.
Meet the Composer
Cole Albert Porter
[born Peru IN, 9 June 1891; died Santa Monica CA, 15 October 1964]
Cole Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics, as well as the music, for his songs.
After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work. His shows of the early 1940s did not contain the lasting hits of his best work of the 1920s and '30s, but in 1948 he made a triumphant comeback with his most successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate. It won the first Tony Award for Best Musical.
Porter's other musicals include Fifty Million Frenchmen, DuBarry Was a Lady, Anything Goes, Can-Can and Silk Stockings. He also composed scores for films from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Born to Dance (1936), which featured the song "You'd Be So Easy to Love"; Rosalie (1937), which featured "In the Still of the Night"; High Society (1956), which included "True Love"; and Les Girls (1957).
Samuel and Bella Spewack
Samuel: [born Ukraine, 16 September 1899; died New York, 14 October 1971]
Bella: [born Bucharest, Romania, 15 March 1899; died New York, 27 April 1990]
Samuel and Bella Spewack were a husband-and-wife writing team. Samuel, who also directed many of their plays, was born in Ukraine. He attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and then received his degree from Columbia College. His wife, the oldest of three children of a single mother, was born Bella Cohen in Bucharest, Romania and with her family emigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan when she was a child. After graduation from Washington Irving High School, she worked as a journalist for socialist and pacifist newspapers such as The New York Call. Her work drew attention from Samuel, working as a reporter for The World, and the couple married in 1922. Shortly afterwards, they departed for Moscow, where they worked as news correspondents for the next four years.
After returning to the United States, they settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania. In the latter part of the decade, Samuel wrote several novels, including Mon Paul, The Skyscraper Murder, and The Murder in the Gilded Cage, on his own, while the pair collaborated on plays. The two wrote several plays and screenplays for mostly B-movies throughout the 1930s, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Story for My Favorite Wife in 1940. They also penned a remake of Grand Hotel, entitled Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), which starred Ginger Rogers.
Always known as a turbulent couple, the Spewaks were in the midst of their own marital woes in 1948 when they were approached to write the book for Kiss Me, Kate, which centered on a once-married couple of thespians who use the stage on which they're performing as a battling ground. Bella initially began working with composer Cole Porter on her own, but theatrical necessity overcame marital sparks, and the Spewacks completed the project together. It yielded each of them two Tony Awards, one for Best Musical, the other for Best Author of a Musical. Kiss Me, Kate proved to be their most successful work.
Kiss Me, Cole
Kiss Me, Kate is the high mark in Cole Porter's career as a composer for the American musical theater. It exceeded one thousand performances when first presented on Broadway. At the time of its debut the distinguished New York Times drama critic, Walter Kerr, commented that Kiss Me, Kate was "one of the loveliest and most lyrical (musicals) yet composed for the contemporary stage." In 1949 Kiss Me, Kate won the first Tony Award for Best Musical. Subsequently it has been mounted in some of the world's most prestigious opera houses—in London, Trieste, Bologna, Stratford, Dresden and the Vienna Volksoper where, to date, it is the greatest box office attraction in the history of that venerable establishment. Curiously, Kiss Me, Kate was the first American musical ever staged in Poland.
The production (which enjoyed an extended pre-Broadway tryout in Philadelphia) opened in New York on December 30, 1949. a true New Year's gift. The original cast was legendary: Alfred Drake, Patricia Morrison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.
The most recent production by Opera North was staged this past September. There is also a film version (viewable on YouTube) starring such cinema notables such as Katherine Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, and Keenan Wynn—along with choreographer Bob Fosse—but its effect is marred by garish Technicolor and a lack of the kind of finesse Kiss Me, Kate deserves. Although Kiss Me, Kate receives the most kudos these days, Cole Porter was the creator of some of the most popular musicals of his day: Fifty Thousand Frenchmen, Dubarry Was a Lady, Anything Goes, Can-Can, and Silk Stockings, while his songs retain their popularity—"I Get a Kick Out of You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (the song that introduced Mary Martin to the American public), and "You're the Top." I name only a few.
One question is vexing. Why did Porter choose the name Lois Lane for the second female lead in the musical? Perhaps one should recall that at the precise moment Kiss Me, Kate hit the boards, the comic strip featuring Superman and his sidekick Lois Lane was absorbing the attention of the American public. Was this a sample of Cole Porter's unquenchable humor?