`Kiss Me, Kate' sparkles at music hall

Musical: The performance is commendable.

Review

Arundel Live

October 07, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After a couple of months watching the Sharks and Jets kill each other on stage in West Side Story, the folks at the Chesapeake Music Hall were ready for a walk on the lighter side.

They chose a sparkler all right, Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, which will play at the Annapolis area's premier dinner theater through Nov. 13.

Clever to a fault, Kate makes wonderfully inventive use of the play-within-a-play format as it spins the tale of an estranged husband and wife acting team brought together to perform Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew in hot, stultifying Baltimore.

Tempers flare, old love is rekindled and emotional baggage flies across the set with abandon, even as the egotistical Fred Graham and his headstrong ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, are bringing Petruchio, the Bard's chauvinist par excellence, and the shrewish Katharine together on the Shakespearean stage.

And with songs like "Another Op'nin', Another Show," "Wunderbar," "So In Love," "Too Darn Hot" and the hilarious "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" sung by a pair of mobsters at the theater to collect a gambling debt, there's delightful music to accompany the gender wars.

The Music Hall brings all of this off with commendable brio. Although the acting runs somewhat ahead of the singing, the results are fast-paced, full of fun and admirably attuned to the sassy sophistication of the piece. (There's authentic Shakespeare in there, remember, and when Petruchio and Katharine are going at it, it sounds like the real thing.)

David Bosley-Reynolds, the music hall's star-in-residence, is back as Fred/Petruchio, and he's a joy to watch as the imperious actor carrying the torch for his ex-wife, even as he's paddling her bottom on stage.

Reynolds' timing and character are excellent (his "This is an outrage" in Act I is one of the show's funniest lines). And although his singing voice doesn't quite bloom in some of those vintage Porter crescendos, he handles his songs with grace and charm.

Also admirable is Sheri Kuznicki, who matches Reynolds' intensity when the fur flies, and is especially good when Katharine finally capitulates in "I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple." Only occasionally did I find myself wishing for more than what her light, lyric soprano voice delivered. "Wunderbar" and "So In Love" in particular could have stood more heft.

Other standouts include Heather Scheeler, whose slinky "Always True to You in My Fashion" is delightful, and Robert Biedermann and Tim King, two consummate pros who steal the show in Act II's "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." What a wonderful number this is - as clever as it is naughty - with the great Cole Porter's flair for humor and wordplay giving us a Shakespeare none of us ever read in school.

Ticket information: 410-626-7515.

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