Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Flint Hill School Kiss Me, Kate

By • May 3rd, 2009 • Category: Cappies

It was “just another op’ning” this weekend at Flint Hill School. And what an opening! Romance, mobsters, and a dancing donkey were just part of the charm of the school’s recent production of Kiss Me, Kate.

Kiss Me, Kate, written by Cole Porter, is styled as a play within a play. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the musical tells the story of a theater company in Baltimore performing a musical rendition of the classic Shakespeare play. The director, Fred Graham, is starring as Petruchio alongside his bitter ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi. Graham has cast his new girlfriend, Lois, in the lead role of Bianca — but she is really in love with Bill Calhoun, a young actor with a money problem. Gambling debts and misunderstood intentions threaten to ruin the inner productionsd as the play begins to reflect the feelings of the actors. Kiss Me, Kate debuted in 1948 and won five Tony Awards, including the first Tony for Best Musical ever given. The show’s clever plot and popular musical numbers have spawned several award-winning revivals.

Flint Hill’s production was energetic and lively. Faced with challenging acoustics, most actors projected loudly and articulated well, although some were difficult to hear, especially in musical numbers. The actors also performed a majority of the set changes, remaining in character even as they moved set pieces across the stage. In some numbers, dancers had trouble staying in synch; however, “Too Darn Hot” was able to showcase a whole different variety of polished vocal and dancing skills.

Michael Libonati and Maggie Robertson shone as Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, who portray Petruchio and Katherine (also known as Kate) in the play-within-a-play. Libonati played Fred with finesse, transitioning effortlessly from 16th to 20th centuries. Robertson’s Lilli had less flair; instead, she embodied the sarcastic, shrewish character with her fiery attitude. Her strong soprano voice provided an anchor for fast-paced songs, such as the penultimate “I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.”

Natalie Berk and Blair Jenet were charming as Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun, a young couple that addresses their relationship in a series of songs that bemoan one another’s flaws. Berk wowed as Bianca, remaining consistently in character throughout the show and strutting across the stage with exceptional confidence during “Always True to You in My Fashion.” Likewise, Jenet’s powerful vocals carried him through both ensemble numbers (such as “Too Darn Hot”) and solos (like “Bianca”).

The highlight of the show was by far the performances given by the gunmen (Brendan O’Flaherty and Taamu Wuya), two mobsters who come to collect a debt of honor and discover their passion forth theatre. Both had brilliant characterization and each utilized a flexible vocal range. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” was a spectacular number complete with a top hats and spats.

Some would argue that Shakespeare might be rolling in his grave at the thought of The Taming of the Shrew: The Musical, but Flint Hill School definitely had the audience rolling in the aisles. Kiss Me, Kate will also be performed next weekend, May 8th and 9th at 7:30PM. Don’t miss it!

by Elisabeth Bloxam of Westfield High School

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