January 21, 2002
Going Out: 'Kate' sparkles and shines
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
The national tour of "Kiss Me Kate" has made its way to The 5th Avenue Theatre and is currently charming audiences with its classic Cole Porter score and show-stopping dancing.
The production, which received a bevy of Tony Awards, is big on laughs, full of romance and an all-over crowd pleaser.
From its witty dialogue to its athletic choreography and catchy tunes, "Kate" has the all the ingredients necessary for an evening of feel good entertainment.
The talented Rachel York, as Lili Vanessi, a well-known actress whose star is slowly fading, and Rex Smith, as Fred Graham, Lili's arrogant ex-husband and now director and co-star in a Broadway musical based on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," are a perfectly cast couple.
They bicker backstage, engaging in petty spats of jealousy over each other's new love interests, while comically battling on stage as Kate and Petruchio.
The concept of a musical-within-a-musical is an ideal way to show how the pair's relationship overlaps from reality to the stage, creating large doses of confusion and hilarity. Add another pair of love-struck actors, the coquettish Lois Lane (played to a tee by Jenny Hill) and her gamblin', dancin' boyfriend Bill Calhoun (smooth mover Jim Newman) and the stage sizzles with sexy, sensuous fun.
A pair of illiterate thugs (Michael Arkin and Richard Poe) create more insanity to the scene and manage to bring down the house while imparting romantic advice in their delightful soft-shoe duet, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
Cole Porter's score is full of jazzy numbers and ballads, including such well-known tunes as "Another Op'nin, Another Show," "So in Love," "Wunderbar," "Always True to You" and "Too Darn Hot."
The latter number sends the thermostat rising with its accompanying snazzy choreography, danced with a whole lot of heat by the "Shrew" cast. "Kiss Me Kate" is a sparkling gem, all shiny and polished for theatergoers to fully admire and enjoy.