I’m not partial to musicals – however, the exceptions to this rule are strong and steady. Fortunately for this reviewer, one of those exceptions is currently playing at Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. After having seen Taming of the Shrew at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company earlier this month, it was only fitting to follow it with the Cole Porter classic, Kiss Me Kate.
Production Team for Kiss Me Kate
For those who may not know, Kiss Me Kate follows a play-within-a-play outline as a threadbare company decides to put on a musical version of Taming of The Shrew. Throw in some exes, some jealousy over new lovers, plus gangsters(!) and complications arise. Director and Choreographer Genevieve Perrino had her work cut out for her when she chose to bring a musical familiar to so many to life – and she delivers. While the piece is very much from a different time, she makes the audience feel nostalgia while still being able to relate to one of the most universal emotions: love.
Scenic Design by Brett Bowling is colourful and visually interesting; however, for some scene changes, one might wonder if perhaps rotating set pieces might have been the way to go. While changes are completed swiftly, even more time could have been saved if entire backdrops didn’t have to be removed each time. Costume Design by Allison Jones is very appropriate for both the onstage Taming performance and the post-WWII fashion whilst backstage. Music Direction by Michael Kennedy is exceptional. The score is fast-paced, but neither the musicians nor the vocalists missed a beat. Kudos to a fantastic collection of musicians who made up the band!
The role of Lilli/Kate is not a cake walk. She plays a shrew “on stage” and shares a similar temper off it. The vocal challenges of this role are not for the inexperienced – and Kali Marsh understands the assignment. Her voice is solid and she is clearly well-trained. I often found myself with goosebumps while listening to her. Ms. Marsh is a beautiful, perfectly cast chanteuse.
And speaking of perfectly cast, it is no surprise that Evan Koons dazzles as Fred/Petruchio. Few have his vocal chops and his physicality is second to none. As previously stated about Ms. Torie Wiggins, one can learn something from the way Mr. Koons carries himself: you will be unable to keep your eyes off him in the best of ways. He is a cogent actor and an incredible vocalist.
Additional standouts include Jamie Steele and Jeremiah Plessinger as First Man and Second Man, respectively. These roles can be two of the most difficult to cast as one needs to find actors who don’t mind being silly and distracting, but not so distracting they draw focus in scenes which are centered around other action. Happily, Mr. Steele and Mr. Plessinger navigate their roles adeptly. Not to be left out, this show offers one of the better ensembles I’ve seen on stage in that they are truly a cohesive group without individuals being distracting. No easy feat and, therefore: Bravo!
With songs most people know even without having seen the musical such as “Wunderbar”, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, “Why Can’t You Behave”, and “So In Love”, Kiss Me Kate is a rollicking fun time for both amateur and veteran theatre goers. Splashed with catchy tunes, funny lines, and lively dance numbers, this reviewer was reminded why this has been one of her exceptions to the “musical rule” for years.
Get Tickets to Kiss Me Kate
Covedale Center for the Performing Arts’ production of Kiss Me Kate runs through April 8. To purchase tickets, please call (513) 241-6550 or go online here.