Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Kiss Me, Kate
Nevada Conservatory Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

A glorious blend of Shakespearean comedy and classic American musical, Kiss Me, Kate follows the backstage misadventures of a theatre company producing a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. With a lively book by Bella and Sam Spewack, the show features some of Cole Porter's best music and lyrics, including a plethora of favorites: "Wunderbar," "So in Love," "Too Darn Hot," "From This Moment On," "Why Can't You Behave?," "Always True to You in My Fashion," "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?," "Another Op'nin', Another Show," and—of course—"Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

Kiss Me, Kate receives a fine production this month at the Nevada Conservatory Theatre under the capable direction of Russell Treyz. In the role of impresario, star, and would-be lothario Fred Graham (aka Petruchio), Steve Judkins owns the stage with a deft comic touch, effortless stage presence, and strong vocals. Zipporah Peddle brings a beautiful operatic voice and serious acting chops to the role of Lilli Vanessi, Fred's ex-wife—who of course plays Katharine, the unwilling object of Petruchio's courtship—as she prepares to leave her life in the theatre to become a well-behaved political wife, until a misdirected flower delivery begins to rekindle her passion for Fred.

Leave it to the resident bad-boy, however, to win the audience's hearts: As the misbehaving Bill Calhoun (aka Lucentio), whose gambling debt brings mobsters into the backstage mix, triple-threat Lysander Abadia is the ultimate song-and-dance man, with a gleaming smile and some of the smoothest dance moves ever seen in Vegas. Bill's love object is the up-and-coming starlet Lois Lane, who plays Katharine's little sister Bianca (pursued on stage by Lucentio, naturally), while simultaneously being courted by Fred. Madison Kisst captures Lois's youth and vibrancy, and sings her numbers well, although on opening weekend she had yet to match the confidence and stage presence of the other leads.

As the remarkably cheerful gangsters, Sam Cordes and Rusty Meyers are a fine comic duo, although they need to brush up their diction to do justice to the witty lyrics of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." The strong ensemble features a number of fine dancers, most notably the graceful Justin Velarde as Hortensio. Choreographer Angelo Moio provides them with a fine showcase for their skills.

Porter's charming melodies spring to life under the 15-person orchestra conducted by music director Christopher Lash. On the opening weekend, however, the orchestra slightly over-powered the vocals; while the featured performers had no problem, the ensemble singers occasionally fell victim to the mix.

The scenic design by Dana Moran Williams and lighting design by Elizabeth Kline are functional and effective, making for quick and unobtrusive scene changes.

The production runs a bit long due to slow pacing in a few of the book scenes. But the music and dance endorphins will keep you smiling.

Kiss Me, Kate continues through May 8, 2016, Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm at the Judy Bayley Theatre on the UNLV campus, on Maryland Parkway (between Cottage Grove and Harmon). Tickets are $27.50-$33, with additional discounts for students, seniors, military, differently abled, and UNLV students, faculty and alumni). For tickets or information, go to http://www.unlv.edu/nct or call (702) 895-ARTS(2787).

Cast

Bill Calhoun (Lucentio): Lysander Abadia
Hattie: Ashlie Carter
Gangster/Stagehand: Sam Cordes
Harry Trevor (Baptista)/Gen. Harrison Howell: Glenn Heath
Fred Graham (Petruchio): Steve Judkins
Lois Lane (Bianca): Madison Kisst
Ralph, the Stage Manager: Jack Lafferty
Wardrobe Lady/Ensemble: Brenda Mandabach
Gangster: Rusty Meyers
Lilli Vanessi (Katharine): Zipporah Peddle
Paul: Christopher Sailer
Stagehand/General's Aid/Ensemble (Haberdasher): Ryan Dougherty
Ensemble (Gremio): Maurice Palmer
Company Manager/Cab Driver/General's Aide/Ensemble: Stephon Pettway
Ensemble (Philip)/Stage Doorman/General's Driver: Darek Riley
Ensemble (Gregory): AJ Vehec
Ensemble (Hortensio): Justin Velarde
Ensemble (Nathaniel): Carson Wilson
Ensemble: Amber Bonasso, Ruliko Cronin, Kelly Hawes, Krystina Kinney, Stefanie Resnick

Additional Creative: Costume Design by Judy Ryerson; Sound Design by Katharine Gonzalez.


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