Tuesday, January 8, 2013

REVIEW: Kiss Me, Kate (London)

Old Vic Theatre (London), Saturday December 22

On to the 6th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate has to be the one show I am most familiar with (amongst the ones in my marathon) because it is the oldest and because I was once in an amateur production of it. I first saw this on stage in October 4 2000 in the form of the award-winning 1999 Broadway Revival. This revival production was the most nominated show during its season and it managed to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance of a Leading Actor in a Musical (Brian Stokes Mitchell, though I saw his understudy instead Michael X. Martin), Best Direction of a Musical (Michael Blakemore), Best Orchestrations (Don Sebesky) and Best Costume Design (Martin Pakledinaz)... AND with musical direction by Paul Gemignani and Marin Mazzie playing Lilli Vanessi/Katherine... no way can this 2012 London Revival directed by no other than Trevor Nunn beat it! Well, it didn't... it almost did... but it didn't and yet, I would still recommend it!
 
Like the 1999 Broadway Revival, while the story and the musical numbers are pretty kept in place, much of the changes were in the arrangement and orchestration. With this, the 2012 London Revival went a bit overboard in some numbers to not better effects. Kiss Me, Kate is a great musical and is actually fine as it is, but I also understand the temptation to invigorate it with a more contemporary feel. While the arrangement and orchestration of the Broadway revival came across as a more slick and jazz up version, I can't help but feel that the London revival (Musical Supervision & Musical Direction by Gareth Valentine / Orchestration by Chris Egan) felt unnecessarily "complicated".
 
The one thing that stood out in this London revival is the different sizes and shapes of the members of the chorus, yet they danced quite well. While it is most admirable to go beyond the usual slim and fit body type, I still have to get used to that kind of aesthetics.
 
Among the leads, Hannah Waddingham's Lilli Vanessi/Katherine was a cut above the rest. She packed equal amounts of vocal, comic and charm power. While not as elegant as Marin Mazzie, Waddingham came across as more approachable and more in line with the language of the musical comedy. As for the rest of the cast, while they were good, they were not great. In comparison to the Broadway revival, Nunn's production seemed to be lacking of exuberance and warmth. Between the two leads (Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne), there was a lack of rapport and allure. Holly Dale Spencer and Adam Garcia, as the second couple Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun had better chemistry with Spencer turning in a more well-rounded performance. As for the comic duo (David Burt and Clive Rowe), they were a tad wooden until they sparked into life with the funny number Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

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Kiss Me, Kate
20 November 2012 – 2 March 2013
Old Vic Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter

Creative Team:
Director – Trevor Nunn
Choreography – Stephen Mear
Designer – Robert Jones
Dance Arrangements, Musical Supervisor & Musical Director – Gareth Valentine
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Orchestrator – Chris Egan
Sound – Paul Groothuis
Casting – Pippa Ailion

Cast includes:
Michelle Bishop
Alex Bourne
Kevin Brewis
Wendy Mae Brown
David Burt
Christopher Dickins
Adam Garcia
Paul Grunert
Mark Heenehan
Shaun Henson
Samuel Holmes
Richard Jones
Carolyn Maitland
Jo Morris
Jason Pennycooke
Tanya Robb
Clive Rowe
Warren Sollars
Holly Dale Spencer
Flik Swan
Kate Tydman
Hannah Waddingham
TimWalton.

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