Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Winston Churchill High School Kiss Me, Kate

By • Nov 11th, 2007 • Category: Cappies

Gabriella (Adrianna Monteagudo) and Troy (Blair Hicks) try to unify the Jocks and Brainiacs.

Shakespeare’s been dead for almost 400 years, and Cole Porter for about 50, yet last night at Winston Churchill High School, an energetic cast brought them back to life onstage with Porter’s hit musical Kiss Me, Kate. Based on Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew,” Kate won five Tony awards on its Broadway opening in 1949.

The show concerns a divorced couple – actress Lilli Vanessi (Shelby Sykes) and actor/producer Fred Graham (Adam Pelta-Pauls) – attempting to play opposite one another in a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Shrew. In the meantime, ditzy singer Lois Lane (Ashley Austin) makes advances to every man onstage, including Bill Calhoun (Matt Sartucci), who has surreptitiously gambled away ten thousand dollars under Graham’s name. Numerous complications ensue, peppered with all-cast dance numbers and scenes from the play-within-a-play.

Kiss Me, Kate requires a pair of skillful singer-actors in the roles of Lilli and Fred, and Sykes and Pelta-Pauls proved up to the challenge. Deftly balancing dry wit and emotional depth, Pelta-Pauls displayed stage presence in such numbers as “Where Is The Life That Late I Led?” His slick baritone complemented Sykes’ operatic soprano nicely. Sykes herself expressed Lilli’s forcefulness well, especially in the witty ballad “I Hate Men.” A pleasing foil to the lead couple was the flirtatious Austin, properly perky in her role and commanding a jazzy belt voice.

Also impressive were the Two Men (Casey Stein and Steven Rigaux), a pair of gamblers come to collect the debt that supposedly is Graham’s. Stein and Rigaux worked well together, milking New York accents for all they were worth in the audience favorite “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Another highlight in the show was the choreography (by Emma Sorenson and Evan Howard); in the show-stopper “Tom, Dick or Harry,” Howard carried off his own difficult steps with aplomb. Though some of the ensemble numbers showed occasional missed steps and lack of synchronization, the dancing as a whole was extremely high-level and certainly well-executed. And Porter’s vocally taxing score, despite some off-pitch notes, was performed nicely by Churchill’s cast.

Churchill’s orchestra was truly excellent, handling stylistically varied sounds – from Renaissance to Broadway to jazz – expertly. Though every so often the actors were overpowered, partly because of a somewhat sporadic sound system, the musicians showed great skill.

Based on Shakespeare and boasting a demanding Cole Porter score, Kiss Me, Kate is hard to mount properly – but Churchill gave the audience a Kate worth kissing.

by Sarah Marx of Homeschool

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