WESTMINSTER — It's Cole Porter's 100th birthday, and September Song plans to celebrate.
When the September Song production of "Kiss Me Kate" opens this weekend at the Westminster High School auditorium, audiences willleave the show feeling "really good about everything," said directorStan Ziolkowski.
"I think some of the show will be very surprising to the audience," said Ziolkowski, who is directing his first musical. "It's upbeat,there's a lot of music performed by a great orchestra. The audience will really be entertained by the beautiful voices of not only the leads, but the chorus."
September Song's 18th production was chosen to recognize Cole Porter, his words and music, in a year that would mark his 100th birthday, organizers said.
"Kiss Me Kate" was a popular choice among the group's performers, said Arnold Hayes, who has been producing September Song shows since he and Dr. Robert Kersey founded the local theater group in 1974.
"Our musical director, Mary Lee Schmall, wanted to do 'Kiss Me Kate,' and some of the performers we wanted to get for roles said they would come back if we did," Hayes said.
The musical, one of Porter's favorites, follows the onstage, offstage romance of divorced couple Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessie, who, ironically, have been cast as Kate and Petruchio, the leads inShakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." Fred and Lilli fight with one another offstage, then have to go onstage to play their parts.
Actors Mo Dutterer and Anne Barcroft, leads in last year's September Song production of "My Fair Lady," will share the stage once again, as the willful Fred and the spiteful Lilli, who are performing at the old Ford's Theatre in Baltimore in the 1940s.
"Basically, what we have is a play within a play," said Dutterer, who is appearing in hissecond September Song production.
"It's a continual love-hate relationship," Dutterer said. "Eventually, (Fred and Lilli) realize thatthey do love each other."
Barcroft, who will be making her eighthSeptember Song appearance, said that unlike many musicals, this showrequires the audience to pay close attention.
"The audience will have to follow along, since the show moves from behind the scenes to onstage with 'The Taming of the Shrew,' " she said. "It's different, in the respect that it is more than boy meets girl, they fall in love, they fight and get back together. In this show the boy and girl start off divorced."
Ziolkowski and some 90 members of the cast, crewand orchestra have been working four nights a week since July 8 to prepare for the September opening.
"The quality of this production is incredible," said Ziolkowski. "Bob Kersey has gathered an incredible group of local talent, both amateur and professional. It is amazing that these people volunteer their time to come out, and this because they love the theater."
The troupe has dedicated "Kiss Me Kate" to Kersey, a former superintendent of Carroll County schools, and to his wife, Florence.
"Bob has been so dedicated to this group sincehe and I put this together in 1974," said Hayes. "We are honoring his service and the performances he has made over the last 18 years.
"We would also like to recognize his wife, Florence, who has allowedhim to be away from home so long, especially since her birthday is in September and he never gets to spend it with her."
September Song donates the proceeds to Carroll Haven Inc., Target Inc., the Carroll County Therapeutic Recreation Council and Richcroft Inc.
The show opens at 8 p.m. Saturday, with a matinee 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Sept. 27, and Sept. 28.
Tickets can be purchased at Scharon's Black Eagle or at the door. Reserved seats are $8; general admission is $5.