Saturday, January 15, 2011

Theatre Review: Kiss Me Kate

It's “Another Op'nin,' of Another Show” in an entirely new space as Circle Theatre moves to their new space which was the theater that Village Players used to occupy. You can tell that Circle is excited to have all this additional space as their production has increased most notably in set design and Kevin Bellie's exciting choreography that makes great use of a larger stage. He uses the bigger space to flesh the show out the dancing more then I've generally seen it done before and in some ways that improves a show and a production that has some great things going for it and some things that need to be lost in Baltimore.

The show starts off on a barren stage and as some of the chorus starts singing the opening song “Another Op'nin,' Another Show” which leads to a stage full of chorus getting ready for opening night and Christine Ronna's (Hatti) finishing up the rest of the song. What she might lack a bit in vocal power in the song she more then makes up with her Girl Friday comic zest.

We next get the secondary leads with Wes Drummond's (Bill/Lucentio) and Rachel Quinn's (Lois/Bianca.) Mr. Drummond has a lot of charm and is a good actor which carries him though having a decent voice and some of the worst songs ever “Bianca.” One of the revelations about this production is Rachel Quinn who was a wonderfully daffy Cinderella in Porchlight's “Into the Woods.” Besides dancing up a story and looking a little like Emma Roberts she posses a strong belt that seemed to fail her at the end of “Always True to You in My Fashion but otherwise she played the role like a young Gloria Grahame.

The leads were played by Jennie Sophia who took a while to warm up but once she got to her dressing room scenes and from there on out she gave the character the right amount of class and humor along with the over the top anger that the part comes with, Her voice sounded lovely and she handled the belting of I Hate Men,” always a crowd pleaser to the soft tones in “I Am Ashamed Women are So Simple,” always a crowd moaner. Sadly I can't heap this praise on her costar Andy Baldeschwiler (Fred/

Petruchio) who lacked the larger then life theater persona the role calls for. His line readings reminded me of Gary Cole's impersonation of Mike Brady and his sing voice when in tune sounded more like a yawn without any power to it.

I also couldn't understand for what was a great set while he had a tiny little room that seemed crowded with just him in there and Lili had a suite. Any actor would have demanded it in their contract long with billing.

As the gangsters both John Roeder and Tommy Bullington played their comedic roles with the right amount of over the top humor however I didn't believe for a second that they could install any danger. Also I know Cole Porter loved writing his refrains to the point where you think a song will never end but they don't work if the lyrics aren't intelligible. As for the General Noah Sullivan handled his character as well as he could though I still can't understand why ever since the revival they added “From this Moment On” into the show as it's beneath both characters. I remember an article when they were trying to get Patti LuPone for the revival and she said that she would never do the show because it's one of show that the leads must have been having martini's backstage during the second act since they had nothing to do. I can understand that reasoning but there must have been a better song to put in that moment.

The Director/Set Designer Bob Knuth for the most part kept the action moving and took the Shakespearean stage moments serious which in the past I've seen it overplayed. The chorus handled all the dancing extremely well however the costumes ranged from wonderful to just why? Katharine's wedding dress after she's been in the mud was hideous and some of the chorus boys were wearing pant that I just know the idea was “borrowed” from Gwen Stefani's tribute to Paul McCarthy at the Kennedy Center. Also that wedding scene at the end at so many pastorals that I thought I was at an Easter Egg Hunt.

I think this production is a tribute to Kevin Bellie as a choreographer and had two great female performances other then that I'm much more interested in seeing what Circle has up it's sleeve later in the season.

Please note: This will be performed in Circle's new location, 1010 Madison Street in Oak Park and is only running until January 31st so get your tickets soon. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and on Sunday at 3:00pm. On Fridays all seats are $22 and on Saturday and Sunday: $26 for adults, $24 for students and seniors

Group rates are available. Box Office: 708-660-9540 and the running Time: 2hrs 40mins: one intermission.

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