Kiss Me Kate
- By gentleguide
- On Sat 30 mar 2019
Ankeny Community Theatre is presenting the musical Kiss Me Kate, opening Friday, April 5. This tuneful Cole Porter musical combines backstage romance, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and multiple storylines. The tales of feuding former spouses, the young starlet trying to find love and still keep her options open, and gangsters trying to make sure debts are paid all combine with song and dance galore.
Too Darn Classic
Headlining this traveling troupe are the famous (and now divorced) director/actor Fred Graham and temperamental actress Lilli Vanessi. There are still sparks between the two, and yet circumstances and egos often get in their way of being together. The aforementioned young starlet Lois Lane would love to settle down with roustabout Bill Calhoun, but she loves attention from many sources, and Bill just loves to gamble (hence the gangsters....)
Set against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, these parallel stories in Kiss Me Kate are acted out both on- and backstage. The combination of love lost and found, Shakespeare, and even a bit of comedic mayhem from wise guys with a penchant for song and dance, allow terrific opportunities for the entire cast to shine. While all the leads of Ankeny’s production are experienced performers, each looks forward to their chance at this classic material.
Too Darn Popular
As a musical actor, Brad Church has had Kiss Me Kate on his “to-do” list for awhile. “Kiss Me Kate is a classic. It has music by Cole Porter — what more can you ask for? The show has lasted so long because of spectacular score and the book. Weaving Shakespeare in it is an added bonus. The role of Fred/Petruchio was particularly appealing to me because of the challenge in playing two distinct characters. While they both have similarities, the Shakespeare piece of the role was especially tantalizing.”
Alison Buechler is playing actress Lilli Vanessi, Fred’s former wife and current co-star. “I love this show in it’s entirety - the catchy and memorable music, the wide variety of characters, and the humor and tension you find throughout the show. One of my favorite pieces is So in Love - the melody is haunting and the words just tell a beautiful story about Lilli. Lilli really puts on tough skin, but this song really shows that she has a tender heart. The song almost shows a vulnerable side to the character, both for her and for Fred as he sings the reprise later in the show.”
The young starlet Lois gets a number of great songs as well, and Ashley Rogers welcomes the variety of styles and emotions she gets to play. “I love a character like Lois,” says Rogers. “She's often pursued as a woman who uses her sexuality and doesn't have a lot of substance or poignancy in her choices. I find her to be a woman who uses everything she has to her advantage, and is altogether too good at playing a coy, innocent girl (when it's often not the case!) She has so many layers, and it's been so wonderful delving into her secrets and making them my own.”
Meanwhile, Lois’ true love is Bill, and Nicholas Root plays the ne’er do well who gets into trouble when he’s gambling on dice instead of love. “It's one of those shows that, while it is old school, its relevance can very much be felt today. Being able to update and reimagine elements for today's audience is very exciting. For me personally it was the draw to stretch myself as a dancer since I'm normally seen as an actor or singer. I'm having a lot of fun with Bill and working with this cast. I think people are going to be very surprised when they come to see the show.”
Too Darn Big
Kiss Me Kate is one of the larger cast productions Ankeny Community Theatre has done in recent memory, with roughly twenty involved onstage and many more behind the scenes. Ankeny’s resident home is a relatively small space, with the audience already practically in the actors’ space, so putting on a show of this magnitude requires some ingenuity.
Buechler has worked in this space before in a musical, both as part of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and with castmate Church in the drama Doubt. But she realizes this is a far different creation. “It's definitely been an all-hands on deck sort of show, but we've made it work at Ankeny. In fact, sometimes the intimate confines of the space makes the characters come to life even more. Charissa [Hamel, the Director] came up with having a move-able set, which has been working really well and gives us a chance to actually do scene changes. We are using as much of that stage as we possibly can.”
“I think the show is working very well in the small space,” observes Church. “There are, of course some space issues with the blocking that have had to be worked out, but Charissa has done a great job of creating an intimate space that will do justice to the piece.”
Root agrees. “How much set can we get away with while giving enough space for the actors? Balancing what the audience sees with what they will imagine for the scene. A lengthy set transition can kill a show, I know Charissa is focusing on having something that looks good but is functional to provide quick scene transitions. Getting the best use out of the space is tricky. There'll be scenes played in front of the curtain to allow set to be placed backstage. Sightlines will be interesting as this is the most of the space that has ever been used. Being able to have more space does help for being able to do some fun choreography with a lot of the cast.“
“I LOVE this space for this production,” notes Rogers. “It is so intimate, I think it allows for us to tell the story in such a beautiful way. As a singer (personally) I don't worry about singing at a certain volume depending on audience size-- I just put it out there :) The larger dance numbers definitely require the right plotting/spacing between couples and tricks/lifts, but I do not feel that it's hindered us in the slightest! I think this cast certainly knows how to rise to the occasion.”
See for yourself when Ankeny Community Theatre presents Kiss Me Kate, beginning April 5 and running through April 14. Tickets are available through the Ankeny Community Theatre website and through Midwestix.com.