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South County Secondary School Kiss Me, Kate

By • May 5th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

How do you woo a wildcat, tame a shrew, or win the love of a tempestuous woman? With big dance numbers, Elizabethan verse, and beautiful duets, of course! South County Secondary School combined the joy of a musical with the wit of Shakespeare in its production of Kiss Me, Kate.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1948 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Sam and Bella Spewack wrote its book, and Cole Porter created the music and lyrics. The show is formatted as a play within a play: a theater company in Baltimore, directed by the arrogant Fred Graham, is trying to stage a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Fred is also playing Petruchio opposite his bitter, movie star ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, who is playing Katherine. Like their characters, Fred and Lilli secretly care for each other, but they bicker constantly because they are too proud to admit it. When Lilli discovers that the bouquet of flowers she received from Fred was intended for the actress playing Bianca, Lois Lane, she becomes furious and tries to walk out on the show. However, thanks to two goofy gangsters who mistakenly believe Fred owes their boss a debt that he can repay only if the show succeeds, Lilli is forced to stay. Like her character, Lilli comes to realize that she should not let her temper stand in the way of true love.

Elizabethan merriment and 1940’s fun were well blended in South County’s production. Great technical and design work supported the energetic cast, which performed admirably despite some hesitancy from the orchestra.

Ray Yankey‘s strong singing voice and sarcastic attitude made for a terrific Fred Graham. As Petruchio, Yankey’s animated facial expressions and crisp enunciation showcased Shakespeare’s clever dialogue. Claire Bridger carried herself with the elegance of a movie star when playing Lilli Vanessi and was impressively frightening as Katherine. Yankey and Bridger’s stage combat was convincingly carried out. As Lois Lane, Ally Barrale ranged from sweet and sincere to brazenly flirtatious. Her rendition of “Always True to You in My Fashion” was a sassy showstopper.

With their deadpan demeanors, perfect punch line deliveries, and unfaltering New York accents, Drew Jenkinson and Alex Dyson stole the show as the First and Second Gangsters, respectively. Judging from the wild applause, their synchronized performance of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” was an audience favorite.

The cast’s colorful costumes, designed and created by Mariah Kalil and Elizabeth Ensminger, were notable for their historical accuracy and complexity. The show was greatly enhanced by the use of multilevel sets, designed by Sarah Stephens and Sammi Santini. Fred and Lilli’s beautifully detailed twin dressing rooms symbolized their simultaneous familiarity and detachment. Some discrepancies in pitch and tempo between the cast and the orchestra weakened the impact of a few songs.

Lilli and Fred put aside their pride to produce a successful, if somewhat unorthodox, rendition of a Shakespearean classic. Like their rekindled love, South County'”s production of Kiss Me, Kate was “wunderbar.”

Kiss Me, Kate will also be performed this weekend, Friday and Saturday at 7:30PM. Don’t miss it.

by Becky Koenig of West Springfield

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is a program which was founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at cappies.com.

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