Kiss Me, Kate
September 15th - 20th 2003. The Eigth Summer Musical from Nottingham Youth Theatre (NYT) and The Brassery. Directed by Alistair Conquer, with MDs Steve Parry (vocal) and Phil Smith (The Brassery). Choreography by Elena Collins & Heather Choo. Designed by Matt Riley. Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack By arrangement with Musicscope and Stage Musicals Limited of New York Fred Graham, famous but penniless actor/director is opening a new version of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" in Baltimore. He has cast his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi in the title role of Kate with himself playing Petruchio and things are tense on and off the set. He has also found a nightclub singer Lois Lane with whom he has become friendly to play Kate's sister Bianca much to the annoyance of Lilli, who has also found herself a new partner in wealthy Texan, Harrison Howell. Lois' partner Bill Calhoun, an inveterate gambler, is also in the show as one of Bianca's suitors but has just signed an IOU for $10,000 in Fred Graham's name. Two well-read gangsters come to collect the gambling debt from Fred. The show shifts between the performance and the antics backstage with a host of well-known songs: Wunderbar, I Hate Men, Always True to You Darling in my Fashion, Another Openin', Another Show, the steaming Too Darn Hot and the show-stopper Brush up Your Shakespeare. Cole Porter (1891-1964) came from a well-off family that disowned him when he switched his post-graduate studies from Law to Music at Harvard University. From tentative beginnings in 1919, he went on to create some of the C20th classic songs and shows, including Anything Goes (1934), until a riding accident in 1937caused permanent pain, disability and depression. Eleven years later, Bella Spewack who had been asked to write the book for Kiss Me, Kate and who had worked with Porter previously, persuaded first Porter that Shakespeare wasn't too highbrow for his very popular style and then the producers to take a chance with a composer/ lyricist who had been out of the hit show business for too long. However, it became his masterpiece exploiting the range of song styles that made him famous. "In My Fashion" is a 'catalogue song', using a simple bouncy melody with a long and entertaining list of similarities or contrasts as in Let's Do It and You're the Tops. Another type of classic Porter song blended witty lyrics with an exotic, brooding melody; "So in Love" in this show is thus like Night and Day, I've Got You Under My Skin and Begin the Beguine. Yet another style is seen in songs like Just One of Those Things and It's All Right With Me: wildly exclamatory in both lyrics and melody as Petruchio's "I Come To Wive it Wealthily in Padua". His skill as a tunesmith is only matched by the playfulness and cleverness of his lyrics and rhymes which are often consciously clever and sohpisticated, like I Get A Kick Out of You. In this show he also plays on his gift for pastiche with excessive mock operetta style for "Wunderbar", a patter song for a woman in "I Hate Men" and two self-consciously theatrical songs "Another Openin'" and "We Open in Venice". In 1956 he lost his wife and, after a series of operations to counteract the continuing effects of the riding accident, had his leg amputated. He became a rather sad recluse until he died during an operation for a kidney stone. Sam and Bella Spewack (1899-1971 him and 1990 her) were two East European immigrants to New York who between them and together created an enormous literary output including journalism, novels, short stories, plays including Boy Meets Girl and Woman Bites Dog and screenplays, including Mr. Broadway, the story of George M. Cohan starring Mickey Rooney. They first worked with Cole Porter in 1938 on Leave It To Me for which he wrote the memorable My Heart Belongs to Daddy.
Alistair Conquer, Steve Parry, Phil Smith
NYT & The Brassery