Cole Porter's songs and Warren Carlyle's choreography ensiven but still enjoyable revival.
No, Kate doesn't get spanked. And for that wonder how the dicey ending of "Kiss Me, Kate" – that musical mashup or "The Taming of the Shrew" and backstage battling exes – would come across these more sensitive times, well, that's also been reconsidered for the Roundabout. Theater Company's Broadway revival of the Cole Porter musical, with "additional material" by composer-lyricist Amanda Green.
The clever navigation of this Golden Age musical through today's waters of gender politics is one of several pluses in an otherwise uneven production that is still able to score some highs in terrific dancing, Kelli O'Hara's performance and, oh, those porter songs.
Though the original production, six years after "Oklahoma !," four after "Carousel" and the same season opened. "South Pacific," the news that a show could integrate character, story and themes into a musical whole seemed to have made little impression on Porter and on book writers Bella and Sam Spewac k. As for making the script remotely credible, it was still anything goes. But with Porter's hit-packed score, who cared?
Director Scott Ellis' production doesn't make sense of a narrative that includes Damon Runyon-style gangsters in a far-fetched subplot, and instead sticks with a playful spirit in the hopes that audiences will ride out the nonsense as long as the show delivers on entertainment. And it often does, especially when it comes to Warren Carlyle's choreography, whether it's in the "Tom, Dick or Harry" or in the sizzling act 2 opener "Too Darn Hot," featuring Corbin Bleu and James T. Lane in impressive solo turns.
Of course, making sport of egomaniacal, narcissistic and hyper-theatrical actors is a sure thing. (See also: "The Prom.") Here he is served with a side of humanity, so the over-the-top exuberance is tamped down. Still, it's a pleasure to see Tony winner O'Hara (as the stage diva Lilli) and Will Chase (as Lilli's co-star Fred) stretch their comic chops, however effortfully at times, playing the bickering divorced couple reunited in this 1948 out -Off-tryout for a musical based on Shakespeare's famous battle of the sexes
O'Hara scores particularly well with "I Hate Men," though she can't help infusing even the most extreme character with innate warmth. Chase, always likable, solidly land the double-enticing jokes in "Where is the Life in Led."
What keeps audiences continually engaged are Porter's songs, which show off an impressive range of standards and styles – a Viennese waltz, a gavotte, a jazz tower, a now-classic showbiz anthem, a music hall and several minor key ballads, including O'Hara's haunting (and slightly disturbing) "So in Love" or Chase's powerful "Were Thine That Special Face." 19659004] But after "To Darn Hot," the second act belongs mostly to the secondary characters. Stephanie Styles as Lois / Bianca enlivens "Always True to You in My Fashion," and there's a well-staged "Bianca" for Bleu. However, the two theater-struck gangsters (John Pankow and Lance Coadie Williams) bring a little singing to "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Also missing in Act 2 is O'Hara's glorious voice, with the exception of the awkward add-on, " From This Moment On. ”
Despite imperfections in plot and presentation, the show is still filled with musical pleasures that audiences will appreciate – now without wincing, after a fashion