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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 18:05 GMT
Kate's passionate kiss
Chissock and Kempner's performances as mafia hoods brought the house down
Kiss Me Kate is an unabashed old-fashioned musical
By BBC News Online's Keily Oakes

Kick up your heels as one of Broadway's classiest shows comes to town.

Kiss Me Kate marks the return of Cole Porter's play within a play to the West End stage, complete with four stars from the Broadway production.

Michael Blakemore's Tony-winning show has opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre during difficult times for the West End as tourism in London takes a nosedive.

But judging from the buzz surrounding this revival, the producers will not have to worry about posting early closure notices.

Marin Mazzie as actress Ms Vanessi, who plays Kate
Marin Mazzie has amazing stage presence
Kiss Me Kate, written by Sam and Bella Spewack, relates the tale of a theatre company putting on a touring production of Taming of the Shrew.

Cue oodles of farcical comedy as life imitates art.

Americans Marin Mazzie and Brent Barrett take the lead roles as Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham.

Ms Vanessi is the primadonna star of the show, playing the shrew Catherine, while Graham is her egotistical ex-husband who is the lead Petruchio.

As egos clash, the sparks fly and soon the pair are all too briefly back in each others arms, until a younger, sassier actress catches Graham's eye.

Mazzie has an amazing stage presence with a voice that turns from gravel to shrill at the change of a note, marking her out as a perfect shrew.

The story twists between the backstage shenanigans and the on-stage storytelling of Shakespeare's play, with the lines increasingly blurred as tempers get the better of the Shakespearean actors.

Nolan Frederick leads the cast in a steamy rendition of Too Darn Hot
Nolan Frederick's dancing is incredibly fluid
At times the comedy is almost pantomime-like, even down to the traditional panto horse.

The showstoppers belt out from curtain up with the classic Another Op'nin' Another Show sung by the entire cast.

Outstanding performances include Nancy Anderson as the blousy Lois Lane with her rendition of Always True to You (In My Fashion).

Cole Porter's use of the rhyme is at times questionable but Anderson's rendition makes you forgive the poetic licence.

Interestingly, the highlights come not from the central characters but from supporting cast members.

Rapturous

The biggest applauses of the night were shared by Nolan Frederick and the pairing of Jack Chissick and Teddy Kempner.

Frederick plays a stage dresser who leads the rest of the company in a spontaneous song and dance on a blazing Baltimore night.

His moves are so fluid and his smile so infectious that you cannot help but break into rapturous applause.

And the same can be said of Chissock and Kempner's performances as mafia hoods, sent to call in gambling debts.

Their duet on Brush Up Your Shakespeare shows what fantastic character actors they are as the audience again showed its appreciation.

Kiss Me Kate is a musical for real musical lovers, big numbers intermingling with several ballad fillers.

But although the ending came all too abruptly, the reaction from the audience showed this show has the legs to run and run.

Kiss Me Kate is on at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Lawson
interviews Kiss Me Kate's director
See also:

02 Nov 01 | Reviews
Kiss Me Kate: Your views
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