Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Kiss Me, Kate
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Motown the Musical

Christine Sherrill and Douglas Sills
Photo by Scott Suchman
Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company continues its string of successful musicals with a bright, brassy production of Kiss Me, Kate illuminated by Alan Paul's sleek direction and a stellar cast.

The 1948 musical by Cole Porter (music and lyrics) and Samuel and Bella Spewack (book) cleverly interweaves a production of a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew with the parallel dramatics going on backstage. Fred Graham (Douglas Sills) is producing and directing the musical-within-a-musical while also playing Petruchio; his Katherine is Lilli Vanessi (Christine Sherrill), a stage and film star—and, until recently, Fred's wife. A strong current still runs between Fred and Lilli but, as with their characters, they're a combative couple: he's overbearing and she's not going to let him walk over her.

Sills is tall, commanding, has a ringing voice, and isn't afraid to look like an idiot on occasion. Sherrill brings beauty, self-possession, a soaring soprano voice, and a willingness to do whatever she needs to do. Singly and together, they're perfect for their double roles.

Just as accomplished are Robyn Hurder as Lois Lane, a nightclub singer Fred has cast as Bianca, and Clyde Alves as Bill Calhoun, who plays opposite Lois as Lucentio. Their romance is also difficult in that Lois is faithful to Bill "in her fashion" but still enjoys profitable flings with wealthier men, and Bill loves Lois but seems to love gambling more. They are both amazingly flexible dancers who make the most of Michele Lynch's dynamic choreography.

Bob Ari and Raymond Jaramillo McLeod are charming as two gangsters who fall in love with Shakespeare's language and get the 11 o'clock number, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." The entire ensemble sparkles in the larger dance numbers, especially the sultry and propulsive "Too Darn Hot."

In keeping with the period of the show, Paul has worked with scenic designer James Noone to create an intricate trompe de l'oeil on-and-offstage setting. The faux "stage curtain" comes down, performers do a crossover number in front of the curtain while the scenery changes behind it, but it's all part of the design. Alejo Vietti's costumes, Paul Miller's atmospheric lighting design and the 11 musicians, conducted by James Cunningham, contribute to the luscious overall effect.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Kiss Me, Kate November 17th —January 3rd, 2016
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack
Backstage, 1948:
Lilli Vanessi: Christine Sherrill
Fred Graham: Douglas Sills
Lois Lane: Robyn Hurder
Bill Calhoun: Clyde Alves
First Man: Bob Ari
Second Man: Raymond Jaramillo McLeod
Harrison Howell: Patrick Ryan Sullivan
Paul: T. Oliver Reid
Hattie: Zonya Love
Ralph (Stage Manager): Bev Appleton
Harry Trevor: Harry A. Winter
Pops: Elliot Dash
The Taming of the Shrew Players:
Katherine (Lilli Vanessi): Christine Sherrill
Petruchio (Fred Graham): Douglas Sills
Lucentio (Bill Calhoun): Clyde Alves
Bianca (Lois Lane): Robyn Hurder
Hortensio (Second Suitor): Brandon Bieber
Gremio (First Suitor): Con O'Shea-Creal
Baptista (Harry Trevor): Harry A. Winter
Ensemble: Jay Adriel, Kristen Smith Davis, Susan Derry, Carl Draper, Heidi Kershaw, Monette McKay, Eliza Ohman, Alfie Parker Jr., Olivia Russell
Swings: Stephanie Bissonnette, Kevin Michael Raponey, Wood Van Meter
Directed by Alan Paul
Music director: Doug Peck
Choreographer: Michele Lynch
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or

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