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Now Opening: ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ Returns to Broadway with Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

March 14 marks “another opinin’” for this Cole Porter classic

The Broadway musical enjoyed its now-legendary Golden Age from roughly the twenty-year period, beginning with the opening of Oklahoma! in 1944 and ending with the opening of Fiddler on the Roof in 1964. Launched by what was then the new songwriting team of the already established Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (writing together for the first of what would be the most financially successful partnership in theater history), they were joined shortly thereafter by such brand-new composers and lyricists as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (My Fair Lady), Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and Jule Styne. There were only two holdovers from an earlier era who went on to smash hits post-World War II: One was Irving Berlin with 1946’s Annie Get Your Gun, and the other was Cole Porter, who with twenty-three Broadway musicals already to his credit, crowned his illustrious career with Kiss Me, Kate!, which first opened just over seventy years ago in December of 1948. To its everlasting credit, it was the winner of the first-ever Tony Award for Best Musical.

Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase star in ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase star in ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Now the time has arrived for what is only the second Broadway revival of this venerable classic: the Roundabout Theatre’s new Kiss Me, Kate! starring Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara (The King and I), and Will Chase (High Fidelity and the 2012 revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Directed by eight-time Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis, the show will also feature choreography from Warren Carlyle, Tony Award winner for 2004’s After Midnight. Since Kate’s last revival was in 1999, which starred Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, it’s time once again to luxuriate in its Cole Porter songs: “Another Op’nin, Another Show,” “Why Can’t You Behave?,” “Wunderbar,” “So in Love,” “I Hate Men,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Where is the Life That Late I Led?,” “Always True to You (In My Fashion),” “Bianca” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” And that doesn’t even include what is now a true standard, “From This Moment On,” which was cut during the show’s out-of-town run – an embarrassment of riches, to be sure.

For those who don’t know what its title means, Kiss Me, Kate! refers to one of the most famous women in Shakespeare’s canon, that of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew. Not content to simply update and musicalize its story, librettists Sam and Bella Spewack (who were also responsible for the book for Annie Get Your Gun,) set the show in what was then modern day (1948), where a traveling theater company, complete with temperamental actors playing Petruchio and Kate, are performing a musical version of Taming of the Shrew. Adding to the complications, lead actors Fred and Lily were formerly married to one another, and whether the Spewacks, who worked on twenty Hollywood films and a dozen plays in the course of their long careers, channeled experiences out of their own marriage to inform that of Kate’s former sparring partners, is anyone’s guess. But the show’s subsequent success certainly made for a winning combination of their prodigious talents. 

Certainly, this spanking new Kiss Me, Kate! is going to make the show feel as fresh as newly cut flowers, given the pedigree of its cast and creative team. For my money, Scott Ellis’s 2016 revival of She Loves Me was not only one of the best revivals Roundabout has ever offered, but one of the best Broadway revivals I have ever seen.

One last bit of trivia, just for fun: Bella Spewack was formerly a press agent, and is the person credited for coming up with the idea of a seal-embossed cookie as a promotional and money-making idea for…right, you guessed it: The Girl Scouts of America.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were for sale at intermission?

Kiss Me, Kate! opens March 14th for a limited engagement that is scheduled to continue through June 2 at Studio 54.

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