Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
All of Summer Theatre of New Canaan's productions are staged under a tent, with an open air atmosphere. Those in search of a theatre with air-conditioning will not find it here, but, even on a somewhat humid evening, this Kiss Me, Kate was, overall, a pleasure. It takes a little bit of time for this production to find its footing, but, once it does, it is pretty grand. One of the real blessings of this Kiss Me, Kate is the excellent casting of all the main characters. Director Allegra Libonati does a solid job of staging the piece, and the wonderful choreography is provided by Doug Shankman.
In the leading roles of Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Katharine, David Sattler and Mary McNulty are highly satisfying. Sattler is strong voiced in all of his songs, and he makes for a suitably hammy and commanding character, with especially good work in the numbers, "Were Thine That Special Face" and a touching reprise of "So in Love," near the conclusion. Mary McNulty is fine as Lilli/Katharine, and she brings the appropriate star quality to the role. McNulty shines in her duet with Sattler, "Wunderbar," and does well by the number "I Hate Men," even if I would have approved of an even rowdier staging of this song. Still, McNulty certainly makes a glamorous impression and made me wish that her character had a really standout number in the second act.
From the start of the second act, with an ultra-smooth and sexy staging of "Too Darn Hot," led by the sinuous James Robert IV, this production truly begins to catch fire. A little later is Lois/Bianca's big song, "Always True to You in My Fashion," and Rachel MacIsaac is simply outstanding in the number, savoring every one of Cole Porter's delicious and decidedly naughty lyrics, leading to loud cheers from the audience.
As Lois/Bianca's somewhat unreliable boyfriend Bill/Lucentio, Tim Falter is a dance-happy delight in the song, "Bianca." Building slowly, Falter seems to just get better and better until he is practically gliding across the stage, displaying some truly terrific tap-dancing. If that isn't enough, the two gangsters in the musical, joyfully portrayed by Brett Alters and Brian Silliman, get the ever reliable "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," and practically raise the roof (or, in this case, the tent top) with their skillful singing and hoofing.
The supporting company, led by the sparkling Melissa Victor, who opens the musical with a bang in the song, "Another Op'nin', Another Show," is likewise extremely talented, and the entire production looks great on Julia Noulin-Merat's gorgeous set. The costumes, designed by Arthur Oliver, are absolutely ideal and there is suitable lighting by Devon Allen. With music director Kenneth Gartman conducting the rich-sounding offstage orchestra, Cole Porter's score scintillates throughout.
While Summer Theatre of New Canaan's production of Kiss Me, Kate isn't always as uniformly outstanding as its best numbers, the show ultimately proves to be a winner.
Kiss Me, Kate, through July 29, 2018, at Summer Theatre of New Canaan, 70 Pine St., New Canaan CT. For tickets, please visit www.stonc.org or call the box office at 203-966-4634.