U.K. Review: "Kiss Me Kate" at Edinburgh Theatre Festival

Lewis Baird

  • United Kingdom Theatre Critic

As much as I call myself a musical fanatic, I have never seen a Cole Porter musical. Well, until last night (Wednesday 4th July 2018), when I saw Kiss Me Kate, in Edinburgh's stunning Festival Theatre.

Kiss Me Kate follows the cast of Fred Graham's production of Taming of the Shrew, preparing for opening night. With Fred rekindling a love with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, things backstage take a turn. Especially, when two gunmen turn up. Will the production go ahead as planned?

Quirijn De Lang as Fred Graham/Petruchio is a breath of fresh air, his excellent acting flow and flawless singing lift this character, especially with excellent comedy techniques, it feels like he has come straight from RSC to do this musical, excellent casting for a leading man. Stephanie Corley's powerful take on Lilli Vanessi/Kate is very enjoyable to watch, her flawless, stunning, operatic voice fills the theatre, while her acting creates a very strong character/character in a character.  Such a strong performance for not necessarily a strong character.

Zoë Rainey portrays Lois Lane/Bianca with such grace, she reminds me of a 1950s actress, her voice is so beautiful, also the characterization of Lois has loads of innocence incorporated with the hint of sleaze. It was a fun character to watch develop. Alan Burkitt plays Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, a dashing young man with the world at his feet, there were moments where his character felt generic, however Alan's singing and dancing, gave this character an impact on stage, especially his spectacular tap dancing. The best tap dancing I have seen on stage!

 Photo: Tristram Kenton

Photo: Tristram Kenton

John Savournin and Joseph Shovelton both were hilariously funny as the gunmen, the two had great comic timing, they worked great as a duo. Joseph Shovelton had a likeness to a certain Nathan Lane. The two were great as the contemporary humorous interludes throughout this performance and shook up the Shakespeare scenes.

Aiesha Pease as Hattie, plus Stephanie Anelli as Paul, are notable mentions of the ensemble, they both supplied great vocals and even better dance skills throughout all the numbers the featured in, definitely two which gave off some talent that is the standard of Broadway/West End.

Jo Davies directs this production, it is clear that she literally has gotten everything she can out of the text, she makes this seem such a high value production with the way she has aimed the actors featured to perform. To add to her high value production, she has the very capable hands of Colin Richmond as her set and costume designer. He is definitely my favourite theatre designer, he designed the set and costume for Sunshine on Leith and this is a completely different approach he has taken. Supplying luscious costume with minimalistic flats and backdrops, with some dress tables and clothing racks, it is a splendid set. Very effective, especially lit by Ben Cracknell's superb lighting design, which may not beam colour, but match the tone very effectively in each scene. Will Tuckett's choreography is fantastic, lifting the energy on even the lesser numbers of the musical.

This production is fantastic, it makes the most of Cole Porter's musical. However, that being said the musical it's self is not the best piece of theatre out there, it is not something which is competition for the likes of Everybody is talking about Jamie or Heathers the musical. Jo Davies definitely has made this musical much more than it previously was, and the performances in this musical are outstanding. Therefore, I rate this musical 4/5 stars.

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