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The Reviews Are In: Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase Star in ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Danielle Moore |

What did critics think of the updated revival of the Cole Porter classic?

On March 14, Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Kiss Me, Kate! opened at Studio 54, starring Tony winner Kelli O’Hara (The King and I) and stage and screen veteran Will Chase (Smash) in the classic, life-imitating-art tale of sparring ex-lovers mounting a musical production of The Taming of The Shrew. This is Roundabout’s second revival of the 1948 Cole Porter musical in the last 20 years, as the company mounted an acclaimed production in 1999 that starred Brian Stokes Mitchell and the late Marin Mazzie. The 2019 Kate comes with a twist, however, in the form of an updated book featuring additional material by Amanda Green. How did audiences respond to the changes? Here are excerpts from 10 critics’ reviews of the updated Kiss Me, Kate!  

Kelli O’Hara stars in Roundabout Theatre Company's ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Kelli O’Hara stars in Roundabout Theatre Company's ‘Kiss Me, Kate!’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The New York Times
“For me, the adjustments, especially Ms. Green’s and Ms. O’Hara’s, are completely successful. They not only reorient the story as a warning to all sexes, but also provide a workaround for a musical that our cancel culture seemed ready to throw on the bonfire of the inanities. How nice to find Kiss Me, Kate rescued from that fate: still speaking to us – or better yet, singing – from the not-so-buried past.”

Entertainment Weekly
“(Corbin) Bleu is a standout among them all. The High School Musical actor showed off his stage skills to previous acclaim in the Roundabout’s Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical back in 2016, and has only gotten stronger since. He’s a classic showman born for this exact sort of piece, with charm and undeniable talents to boot (on display, especially, when the actor LITERALLY TAP-DANCES ON THE CEILING).”

“Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase are so evenly matched – in performance, talent and temperament – that it’s hard to imagine a more finely balanced battle de deux. Whatever spanking goes on in this musicalized update of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, well, each gives as good as she gets.”

The Hollywood Reporter
“The show is the very essence of giddy postwar light entertainment; it won the first-ever Tony Award for best musical and ran for more than 1,000 performances. Even in an imperfectly cast revival like the new Roundabout production, it's virtually impossible not to surrender to its boisterous charms.”

“Here ham is served with a side of humanity, so the over-the-top exuberance is tamped down. Still, it’s a pleasure to see Tony winner O’Hara (as the stage diva Lilli) and Will Chase (as Lilli’s co-star Fred) stretch their comic chops, however effortfully at times, playing the bickering divorced couple reunited in this 1948 out-of-town tryout for a musical based on Shakespeare’s famous battle of the sexes. O’Hara scores particularly well with ‘I Hate Men,’ though she can’t help infusing even the most extreme character with innate warmth. Chase, always likable, solidly lands the double-entendre jokes in ‘Where Is the Life I Led.’” – Variety

The Wrap
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and (Will) Chase presents a red-hot lover on the rebound. He eschews playing the impresario-actor Fred Graham as a big ham. He’s actually an excellent Petruchio in the musical-within-a-musical scenes, and his pursuit of Lilli backstage is tinged with just enough recklessness to make it real.”

Time Out New York
“Warren Carlyle’s inventive choreography is also showcased to wonderful effect in songs performed by the show’s charming secondary couple: the gambling-prone hoofer Bill (High School Musical alum Corbin Bleu) and the frankly available showgirl Lois (Stephanie Styles). Bleu’s ‘Bianca’ finds him tapping up the stairs of David Rockwell’s backstage set until he’s dancing on the ceiling; and Styles has a hilarious bit of business with a man’s jacket sleeve in ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’ (a list of sexual dalliances that proves that, where Lois is concerned, there’s no such thing as free love). ‘Tom, Dick, or Harry’ – a naughty, jazzy courtship number they share with dancers Will Burton and Rick Faugno in the show within the show – is another highlight.”

New York Stage Review
“Though this revival is buoyed by a few canny supporting turns (most notably Stephanie Styles, making a smashing Broadway debut as the airy ingenue Lois Lane), any Kiss Me, Kate rises and falls on the pairing of its Lilli/Kate and Fred/Petruchio. It’s a thrill to see Chase, after years of replacing in hit shows and starring in a string of flops, finally get a meaty role he can make his own, and he’s every inch the Parma ham that the part demands, especially in the tongue-twisting ‘I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua’ and ‘Where Is the Life That Late I Led.’”

The Daily Beast
“Witness Jeff Mahsie’s luxe, period-perfect costuming, Donald Holder’s atmospheric lighting, and David Rockwell’s wonderful sets – whether a vertical slice of backstage, with dressing rooms off stairways (perfect for dancing up and down), or the dank alley at the back of the theater where the performers lounge, smoke, flirt and – oh! – dance, dance, and dance to ‘Too Darn Hot,’ led by James T. Lane’s Paul…This Act Two opening sequence is acrobatic, balletic and stunning; the kind of song and dance sequence (choreographed by Warren Carlyle and arranged by David Chase) that begins as a cool cruise-and-lilt and ends with the kind of propulsive energy and group of elasticized bodies that can burn holes in floors.”

New York Post
“Whether she’s hitting high notes or swatting her male co-star, Kelli O’Hara – funny and fierce –  is reason enough to see Kiss Me, Kate…Chase, a Broadway vet and star of TV’s Nashville, makes a convincingly pompous and preening chauvinist, especially when he’s singing ‘I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua.’ And O’Hara radiates command every step and note of the way. She puts her stamp on her roles with wry comedy, physical abandon and rapturous singing. In this battle of the sexes, O’Hara takes the Kate.”

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in March 2019

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