Kiss Me Kate by Cygnet Players
Kiss Me Kate is a musical based on Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ It tells of a company putting on a production of the very same show. Fred Graham, the director and male lead, is Lilli Vanessi’s ex husband. Vanessi also happens to be the star of the show. When the sparks of romance begin to ignite again between them again, cold water gets poured on it from all directions including Vanessi’s new fiancé turning up and a bouquet of flowers going astray.
Cygnet Players are blessed with 3 strong leads in the form of Keith Walters as Fred Graham/Petuchio, Rosie Orchard as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine and Joanne Frazer as Lois Lane/Bianca. Orchard played the feisty Vanessi with real flair, perfectly portraying her stubbornness. The deadpan portrayal helped get across the comedy in the part well and combined with a very strong soprano voice meant she nailed the part. Lois Lane is a very different part, a total flirt and Joanne Frazer had a ball in this role which rubbed off on the audience. When the presents started arriving for Lois Lane you easily believed that she had all of these suitors and she flirted with the audience nearly as much as the men on stage. Her strong belt was given a chance to shine during ‘Always True To You In My Fashion,’ when I could have listened to several more encores just to be wowed again by her vocals.
Keeping up with these two leading ladies was no mean feat but Walters was a great leading man. Immediately likeable in the role he won the audience over from his first appearance on stage with his assured performance. A special mention must also go to Paul Nicholas Dyke as Bill Calhoun whose dance solo during ‘Bianca’ got a large, deserved cheer from the audience.
James Hall took the helm of a 12 piece orchestra. Quite often in amateur productions the orchestra is (understandably) scaled down in size so it was lovely to hear this Cole Porter score being played by an orchestra of this size and being played so well.
The highlight of the show for me had to be the opening of Act 2 with ‘Too Darn Hot.’ Vicki Rice, the choreographer had devised a number that all of the cast could execute with real flair and a huge amount of energy and had clearly drilled them repeatedly. This resulted in a real feast for the eyes and ears.
Throughout the rest of the show director Phoebe Fleetham used the ensemble cleverly, from covering scene changes to small comedic parts that suited them well. If possible I would like to see even more character form the ensemble when they are backstage at The Taming of The Shrew, which would help take the show up a notch.
I only had a few small niggles in terms of criticism and that was occasionally the pace dropped, in particular in Act 1, which is long already. This wasn’t helped with some long scene changes although I write this in the knowledge that I saw Kiss Me Kate on opening night and I am sure that the scene changes would have sped up as the week goes on. There are also similar other kinks that will hopefully be ironed out like a few late lighting cues or messy follow spot pick ups but that really is a minor point in a show like this.
I must congratulate Cygnet Players on a high standard of production; with a sizzling production number, leads that oozed their characters and a wonderful orchestra this is a great show to see if you love the golden age musicals.
Kiss Me Kate is running at the London Oratory School until Saturday 23rd February. To find out more about the show and book tickets, visit their website.