SUMMER THEATRE OF NEW CANAAN (STONC) is serving up one of the most delicious productions of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” seen in recent years.
The play within a play is about the stormy relationship of a formerly married, acting couple that reunited for this production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Their continuing on and off-stage marital bickering parallels Shakespeare’s comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew” – which makes Bard’s ancient tale, about a determined husband’s victory over a fiercely, independent woman even funnier. What’s surprising is that despite the “Women’s Liberation Movement,” this 1948 award-winning musical by Cole Porter and book by Sam and Bella Spewack is going so well with today’s new audiences.
Heading the cast of stars at STONC is Mary McNulty as Lilli/Kate and David Sattler as Fred/Petruchio. Their expressive voices compare nicely to recordings of the show’s original stars, Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. The furniture flies as McNulty gives full energy to her solo, “I Hate Men” while Sattler delivers the witty, “Where is the Life I Led” with charming finesse. The music, sensitively orchestrated and directed by Kenneth Gartman is packed full of melodious, operetta-style songs. Among the favorites are “Wunderbar” and “So In Love,” magnificently rendered by the leads.
The original Broadway show’s upbeat, dance numbers were choreographed by Hanya Holm and introduced a young, Bob Fosse, who went on to even greater things. At STONC, the dance highlights, under the direction of Connecticut Critics Circle Award-Winner, Doug Shankman, are “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” and “Too Darn Hot” – where James Roberts IV’s expressive body and clear technique grabs the spotlight in this jazzy piece along with partner Melissa Victor.
Rachel Maclsaac plays the on and off stage dizzy dames Lois Lane/Bianca and with co-star Tim Falter as Bill/Lucentio, the pair are fun to watch in “Why Can’t You Behave” and “Always True to You (In My Fashion).”
“Kiss Me Kate,” contains lots of clever satire and amusing “shtick.” An unexpected treat is “Gangster 1 and Gangster 2 (Bred Alters and Brian Silliman). This odd pair is drafted into the on stage shenanigans and amusingly become lost in the scenery. As a result, their main song and tap number, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” produces joyful encores before the final curtain.
If Shakespeare could have been taught in this enjoyable way during our high school days, we would all be scholars and everyone would “cow-tow” to us too.
Plays to July 29 Tickets: 203-966-4634
(Under the tent at Waveny Park, New Haven)