I conclude my tour through Kiss Me, Kate on screen with the best–though most truncated–version to be found. A 1958 telecast, presented by Hallmark and available thanks to the folks at Video Artists International, who have made a habit of preserving such delicacies. This adaptation runs only 78 minutes (a full hour shorter than the 2003 London taping), but you hardly notice anything is missing. Of course, a lot is missing: “Too Darn Hot”, “Were Thine that Special Face”, “Bianca”, and while a brief dance portion is all the remains of “Sing of Love”, most of the other dancing has been cut. Elsewhere dialogue is trimmed throughout (especially in the Shrew scenes), and if that means the transition from scene to song is sometimes graceless, much of the humor and all of the plot is retained and the added efficiency is welcome (especially in the Shrew scenes). But the greatest asset of this production is the presence of the original stars of the Broadway production. As Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate, Alfred Drake and Patricia Morrison are peerless. Their chemistry is tangible with as much of their performance communicated through sly looks and innuendo as text or song and their obvious fondness for the material and each other is infectious. Though the staging of “Wunderbar” lacks the movie version‘s graceful choreography or the precisely crafted jokes found in the revival, Morrison and Drake’s seemingly effortless rapport make it the most genuinely engaging of the three.
The latest …Kate I checked out is the 2003 taping of the London production of the hit Broadway revival.
Kiss Me, Kate seemed to spend years before its succesful revival burdened with the perception that it was in dire need of re-writing in order to be playable. In a May 1998 review of a re-issue of the Original Cast Recording, Ken Mandelbaum wrote:
“I’ve always found Kiss Me, Kate the most overrated title in the top echelon of celebrated Broadway musical classics. Study the script and note that, while the exchanges between former husband and wife Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham couldn’t be sharper, the show is vaguely conceived, its comedy far- fetched, its emotional reality shaky…That these problems are real ones is the chief reason why the show has never had a Broadway revival and why, when one was announced a few years back, it was cancelled owing to a dispute about book rewrites.”
Nearly 18 months after Mandelbaum’s assessment the first Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate opened at the Martin Beck theater as the first major hit of the season, going on to win Tonys for Revival, Director (Michael Blakemore), Actor (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Costumes and Orchestrations. Continue reading
It has been over 20 years since I’ve seen the 1953 film version of Kiss Me, Kate, and I remembered it mostly for the ways it was different than the stage version. So I was delighted to discover that–a few significant, and I do mean SIGNIFICANT, exceptions aside–the movie is actually one of the more faithful stage-to-screen adaptations, with musical numbers that are well sung and cleverly staged, sumptuous and colorful production design, and considerable wit. Continue reading
Kiss Me, Kate is a show I hold near a dear to my heart. As I junior in High School I played Bill Calhoun/Lucentio (and also got to sing “Too Darn Hot”) in a production that, by pure coincidence, happened around the time of the Broadway revival. A friend of mine went to see the show in New York and got Michael Berresse to sign a playbill “To Donald, from one Bill to another” (this was inexplicably THROWN AWAY by my ex-step dad, but I just have to move on with my life). I then got to see the national tour when it came to Cleveland.
But despite my fondness for the material, I haven’t really revisited it. Many of the songs have become standards, so I’ve heard plenty I’ve heard its greatest hits in various contexts and mash-ups throughout the years. But a dazzling concert presentation, presented as part of the BBC’s annual “Proms” concert series and streaming live on their website until the end of August, has reinvigorated by interest. Continue reading