Review: Kiss Me, Kate

Roselyn Shallcross as Lilli in Kiss Me, Kate. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
7 Feb 2019 @ 4.04 pm
| Entertainment

Bold, brassy, daft and uplifting, Kiss Me, Kate makes for a very entertaining night out.

Kiss Me, Kate
  • Till Sat 9 Feb
  • Joseph Rowntree Theatre
  • £10-£16
  • More details

With its show-in-a-show plot, some tricky musical numbers and a huge community cast this was a ballsy choice for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company.

But then, it’s the ambition of this production that makes it so admirable.

From the decision to have the cast on stage as theatregoers trail in, to the last post-bow chorus of Brush Up Your Shakespeare, director Kayleigh Oliver pushes the boundaries.

And the ensemble rise to the challenge, taking the audience with them.

Contagious fun

Jim Paterson (centre) and cast. Photograph: G&A Media
For those unfamiliar with Kiss Me, Kate, it tells the story of a theatre company staging Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew in Baltimore.

It combines elements of the Bard himself, farce, and all-out song and dance numbers, with various bumpy love stories thrown in for good measure.

First performed in 1948, there are elements of the show that appear old-fashioned to our modern eyes. But this is a period piece, and staged here with such gusto that you soon forget any dated moments.

It has a contagious sense of fun. Opening number Another Op’nin, Another Show was done to the max, with the cast arriving from all points to take part in the action – including a tea lady and her trolley.

And the singing – consistently good throughout – was at its best in those ensemble numbers: the chorus makes what Neil Diamond called “a beautiful noise”.

In this they were given tremendous support by a superb band under musical director Timothy Selman.

Star quality

L-R: Martin Lay, Andrew Isherwood, Stuart Sellens and Charlotte Wood. Photograph: G&A Media
There are many notable performances. The stand-out was Charlotte Wood as the ditzy, materialistic, loveable Lois Lane/Bianca.

Her star quality shone in one of the best routines of the night – Tom, Dick or Harry, with Andrew Isherwood, Martin Lay and Stuart Sellens as her desperate (and heroically daft) suitors.

Roselyn Shallcross was great value as she swapped from Hollywood starlet Lilli to plant-pot flinging Kate, with a voice powerful enough to fill a theatre twice the size.

She sparred entertainingly with Jim Paterson as actor-producer Fred/shrew-taming Petruchio, a wise-cracking but big-hearted hero.

We must give a word to the two gangsters – a note-perfect Larry Gibson ably assisted by sidekick Alastair Bush, who delivered many a belly-laugh.

And well done to William Darwin (Paul), who was given the none-too-easy task of sultry jazz number Too Darn Hot – and made it his own.

It’s a long evening – one or two of the numbers might have been improved with some judicious cutting – but the energy levels remain high throughout.

A great show, raising money for a great cause – the Joseph Rowntree Theatre itself. So get along before Saturday and support both.