Kiss Me, Kate
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack
Directed by John Doyle
Starring Juan Chioran, Monique Lund, Chilina Kennedy
At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.
Play at a glance: Cole Porter's 1948 comeback hit is about the Baltimore tryout of a new musical based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. As actors Fred (Juan Chioran) and Lilli (Monique Lund) celebrate the acrimonious anniversary of their divorce backstage, they have to play Petruchio and Kate onstage in a production invaded by jealous actors, the U.S .military and a pair of Bardolatrous gangsters.
First impression: Chioran and Lund give feisty performances in a fabulously funny show-within-the-show where actors play the sets and props and hysterical histrionics reign. But British director Doyle's attempts to add depth to a shallow musical leads to an uneven and often confusing tone and a show that never entirely lets loose.
Highlights: Chilina Kennedy is, once again, just Too Darn Hot as aspiring airhead actress Lois Lane, who gets to sing Always True to You in My Fashion, while Steve Ross and especially Cliff Saunders are marvellous as the two wise-guys of Verona who get the last big number, Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
The nitpicks: Fred and Lilli's reconciliation seems to come out of nowhere. And Doyle and designer David Farley haven't quite mastered the sightlines of the Festival Theatre's thrust stage - best to sit in the centre if you want to see everything.
Audience instant reaction: Enthusiastic.
Critic's instant reaction: Three stars (rating subject change overnight - for full review, see Thursday's Globe and Mail Review section)
Post-show questions for dinner or drinks: How long before Kennedy is starring on Broadway? Which show is more sexist - The Taming of the Shrew or Kiss Me, Kate?