Kiss Me, Kate was Cole Porter’s response to the musical Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein, which changed the nature of the musical theatre genre. For the first time songs were linked directly with the book, and this became Porter’s first and most popular musicals. The show was the first musical to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, and has gone on to enjoy countless revivals all over the world. The story is an updated version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and tells of a company of travelling actors putting on the show, where backstage drama begins to creep in on the action.
Sam and Bella Spewack
Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew
Saint Subber & Lemuel Ayers
John C. Wilson
Original Broadway Production
New Century Theatre, The Schubert Theatre - Opened 30 Dec 1948, closed 1 Jan 1970
Cast: Alfred Drake,Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk, Harold Lang, Charles Wood and Harry Clark.
Original London Production
London Coliseum - Opened 8 Mar 1951, closed 1 Jan 1970
Martin Beck Theatre - Opened 18 Nov 1999, closed 30 Dec 2001
Cast: Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Amy Spanger, Michael Berresse, Ron Holgate, Lee Wilkof, and Michael Mulheren.
Victoria Palace Theatre - Opened 30 Oct 2001, closed 8 Nov 2002
2012 London Revival
Old Vic - Opened 20 Nov 2012, closed 2 Mar 2013
Cast: Hannah Waddingham
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Art imitates life as this group of travelling players explore the Taming of the Shrew and a quarrelling couple realise they are so in love.
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A company of actors are rehearsing for a new musical production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and sing about the drama of life as a performer. Fred Graham is the show’s producer, director and leading man, playing opposite his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi the movie star. The pair are forever arguing and Lilli is jealous of Fred who is pursuing the younger actress Lois Lane. Lois’s boyfriend Bill is a gambler and frequently misses rehearsals. He has racked up multiple debts and has signed an IOU in Fred’s name for $10,000.
Backstage, Lilli shows off her engagement ring to the rest of the company and reminds Fred it is the anniversary of their divorce. Gangster show up to demand the money out of Fred who doesn’t understand what they are talking about and the agree to come back after the show. Flowers are mistakenly delivered to Lilli’s dressing room from Fred tries to stop her reading the card which reveals they were actually intended for Lois. Lilli says she will read the card later onstage.
As the performance begins we see the beginning of the musical as Petrucio (Fred) wants to marry Kate (Lilli) but she has no intention of getting married. Despite his efforts to woo her, she refuses. She reads the card and realises that the flowers were not intended for her, and marches on-stage to hit Fred mid performances. She threatens to leave the show, but Fred convinces her to stay so he can pay off the $10,000 gambling debt Bill has left him with. As the show continues on-stage we see Petrucio and Kate’s wedding, with the gangsters now in place to make sure that Lilli doesn’t leave the stage. Petrucio tells Kate to kiss him, but Lilli refuses and he carries her off as she beats him.
The second act opens during the intermission from the performance outside of the theatre. The cast and crew lament the heat and break out into a wild dance routine. As the play then continues, Petruchio attempts to tame Kate on-stage whilst backstage Lilli’s fiancé has turned up and Lois recognises him as a past lover. Bill is upset, but Lilli tells him that she will always be faithful in her own special way. Bill tells Lilli how dull her life will be with her new fiancé.
Meanwhile, the gangsters realise that their boss has been killed so the IOU is no longer valid. They are caught on-stage in costume and deliver a rousing tribute to Shakespeare in their own special way. The conclusion of the play then takes place at the wedding of Bianca and Lucentio. Lilli arrives on-stage to deliver Kate’s final speech and reconciles with Fred as the curtain falls.
- Another Op’nin’, Another Show – Hattie and Company
- Why Can’t You Behave? – Lois, Bill
- Wunderbar – Fred, Lilli
- So In Love – Lilli
- We Open In Venice – Fred, Lilli, Lois, Bill
- Tom, Dick or Harry – Bianca, Lucentio, Gremio, Hortensio
- I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua – Fred and The Men
- I Hate Men – Lilli
- Were Thine That Special Face – Fred
- We Sing of Love – Lois,Bill,Ensemble
- Kiss Me, Kate – Fred, Lili, Ensemble
- Too Darn Hot – Paul and dancers
- Where Is the Life That Late I Led? – Fred
- Always True To You In My Fashion – Lois
- Bianca – Bill and Company
- So In Love (Reprise) – Fred
- Brush Up Your Shakespeare – First Gangster, Second Gangster
- I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple – Lilli
- Kiss Me, Kate (Finale) – Company
1949 Tony Awards: Best Musical (First winner in this category), Best Producers of a Musical, Best Authors, Best Composer and Lyricist, Best Costumes.
2000 Tony Awards: Best Revival, Best Leading Actor (Brian Stokes-Mitchell), Best Direction, Best Orchestrations, Best Costume Design.
UK: Music Scope UK