Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Kick Me Kate

Last night I saw SBMT's production of Kiss Me, Kate, one of my favorite movie musicals, but one of the shows I've done which was not a pleasant experience. Before writing this I reviewed the video of that 1992 show, which started as Peninsula Players, intended for the Fox theater in Redwood City, but ended up adopted by Palo Alto Players and performed in Lucie Stern Theater in Paly. Peninsula Players was spun off from PA Players, I think because TheatreWorks was starting to crowd PAP out of Lucie Stern.

Anyhow, SBMT's show started with a total WTF, a very complex 10-minute moving tableau to a very extended rendition of Another Op'ning, Another Show. It was one of those Director's Visions™ things. Started out very weakly, with a single actor giving the first line on an empty stage, and crossing, then adding more and more cast with each line sung by someone else, as they came in from both sides and crossed, sometimes wheeling set pieces or costume racks. I was in the 3rd row, and it made me dizzy. And confusewd me, because that piece comes later in the script.

They also extended Too Darn Hot way beyond all reason, added introductions to a couple of numbers which had been cut from the movie (and maybe also the Broadway show), and they jammed all the bits of Always True To You In My Fashion into one awkward sequence instead of one or two reprises.

But the thing which got me most is how they treated my favorite number, Brush Up Your Shakespeare. In the movie it's performed backstage for the leading man in his dressing room, but in the stage version the two thugs find themselves taking the wrong exit and landing on stage in the middle of a Shakespeare scene. And at least one of the thugs turns out to be a darned good tap dancer in both versions. SBMT had no transition, the thugs end up in front of the curtain for no apparent reason. And while they were given fairly decent choreography, there was no tap dancing, and the soft shoe bits were a poor substitute. I was even more disappointed because I have worked with both of these guys before, and I know they could have learned enough tap to make it work. The audience enjoyed it, but it didn't get the standing O which ours did.

But that's all the bad stuff.

The sets were marvelous, and the crew got them changed at lightning speed. Costumes were top notch, both the Shakespearean and the 30's backstage garb.

The leading lady, Barbara Reynolds, is someone I've had a crush on for ages, she was married to someone I was onstage with and we met during set painting/tech week. I had no idea she had such a beautiful high soprano voice. And she can belt, too. Larry Hayes I have never seen before, but he also has an astounding voice and played the leading man almost perfectly.

Oh wait, more bad stuff: The microphones were turned up too high. Voices were tinny and sometimes distorted.  A shame, because none of the leads needed them in that small space, even with the orchestra. Gary Stanford as Bill Calhoun also showed a strong voice, I haven't heard him sing in a while. I know him mostly as a dancer, and he was definitely under-used in this production. I remember the character dancing a lot more in the PAP one.

Phil Levesque playing Paul has the lead in Too Darn Hot, but I kept stifling a giggle because his makeup was too darn white. His voice is okay, but it's a tough song to sell when you're prematurely bald, very very white and petite. I wasn't convinced.

Michael Johnson played the role I had played. We go way back, he starred in the first show I did in the Bay Area, and he was better than I was, by quite a bit. Which brings up another bad thing - when he's negotiating with Petrucio for the dowry, Kate screaming in the house was my cue to agree to the higher price. There was nothing in this show. Not sure if Barbara missed the cue or if they ditched it for the costume change. Or something.

Jeffrey Henson and I have been in lots of shows, either onstage or backstage, and I keep forgetting that this very mild looking guy about my age has a powerful voice, and knows how to use it. He blew me away with his portrayal of Gen. Harrison Howell, especially his part in From This Moment On. In PAP's show, the role is a Senator, and he doesn't sing. Apparently the song was pulled from the original Broadway show, but made it into the movie sung by Lois and her three suitors.

Looking online, I'm guessing SBMT did the 1999 revival version. Makes sense, most of the revivals have too much dancing. ;-)


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