Whether or not she’s hitting excessive notes or swatting her male co-star, Kelli O’Hara — humorous and fierce — is cause sufficient to see “Kiss Me, Kate.”
This 70-year-old hodgepodge of showbiz shenanigans and Shakespeare is hardly the tightest story ever instructed. However it’s bought a jewel field filled with hummable Cole Porter gems, together with the luxurious “So in Love,” the frisky “Why Can’t You Behave” and the rousing “One other Op’nin,’ One other Present.”
On this Roundabout Theatre revival, O’Hara and Will Chase play movie star Lilli Vanessi and producer-director-actor Fred Graham, sparring ex-spouses whose private battle bleeds into their roles as Katharine and Petruchio in a touring musical of “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Supporting gamers Lois Lane and Invoice Calhoun (Stephanie Kinds and Corbin Bleu) add their very own romantic antics. All instructed, Bella and Sam Spewack’s un-PC story makes “Kiss Me, Kate” an Actors’ Fairness and human sources nightmare.
However all’s effectively that ends effectively, because of Scott Ellis’ witty staging, which brims with visible gags and cheekiness.
Set designer David Rockwell retains issues transferring seamlessly because the motion glides backwards and forwards between Baltimore, the place the play throughout the play is making an attempt out, and the Bard’s Italy. And Warren Carlyle’s choreography is dynamite: “Too Darn Sizzling” sizzles and, in one other quantity, Bleu sings and faucets his coronary heart out — even the wrong way up.
The musical’s e-book has been tweaked, although not all the time for the higher, to reduce misogyny. Kate’s not known as a “wench,” neither is she spanked — as a substitute, she provides Petruchio loads of swift kicks within the rump. And when she sings Shakespeare’s line, “I’m ashamed that girls are so easy,” the “ladies” flip into “folks.”
Gender-parity achieved, sure? No. As laudable as these efforts are, Lilli nonetheless performs towards her will, because of a subplot about debt-collecting goons. And several other songs are steeped in pervy references, together with a “Tom, Dick or Harry” whose emphasis lies firmly on Dick.
A love letter to the theater? This “Kiss” is sort of a collection of naughty sexts.
However the stars take advantage of it. Chase, a Broadway vet and star of TV’s “Nashville,” makes a convincingly pompous and preening chauvinist, particularly when he’s singing “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua.” And O’Hara radiates command each step and notice of the best way. She places her stamp on her roles with wry comedy, bodily abandon and rapturous singing.
On this battle of the sexes, O’Hara takes the “Kate.”