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Friday, April 15, 2011

Kiss Me Kate (1958)

During an out of town try out in Baltimore of a musical version of Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW, backstage tensions rise between the director/leading man (Alfred Drake) and his co-star (Patricia Morison) who also happens to be his ex-wife that spill out into their performances. Directed by George Schaefer, this production is far more faithful to the 1948 Cole Porter musical than the 1953 MGM film version. The "risque" Porter lyrics which were cleaned up for the film are back in their original form a mere five years later. Two songs, Too Darn Hot and Bianca have been dropped but the rest of the Porter score is there. Morison (who, along with Drake, starred in the original Broadway cast) is marvelous, so good that it's a pity she didn't get a chance to recreate her role for the MGM film. Julie Wilson makes for a bland Lois Lane though she's in terrific voice (she almost oversells Why Can't You Behave?) and Bill Hayes plays her gambling lover Bill. Jack Klugman and Harvey Lembeck as two gun toting thugs get to do Brush Up Your Shakespeare. The choreography by Ernie Flatt is, well ..... flat. Lorenzo Fuller's singing of Another Op'nin, Another Show is pretty bad so you can see why his big number Too Darn Hot was dropped. While the entire production in general lacks that certain spark, for archival purposes and the chance to see Drake and Morison recreate their original roles, it's worth seeking out.

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