I kind of did a research deep dive on “Kiss Me, Kate.” (As one does) So, before I share my two-cents on the current revival, I’m going to drop some knowledge. (You’ll thank me when you win Broadway Trivia Night)
In 1948, when Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate,” first played the Great White Way it was fairly groundbreaking. With songs that connected directly to the plot and forwarded the story, it was Porter’s response to a trend started a few years earlier in 1943 by a revolutionary musical about some farmers and cattle ranchers finding love and scratching out a living in a southern territory of the US. (*Psst* the show was “Oklahoma!”)
Unlike “Oklahoma!” it went on to win the Tony for Best New Musical. The fact that “Oklahoma!” did not win the Tony for Best New Musical is not exactly surprising. For one thing, it’s hard to win an award for a genre that you created. For another, the Tonys didn’t exist until 1947 and Best Musical wasn’t a category until 1949 when “Kiss Me, Kate,” a show that most definitely rode its coattails, won. What is surprising is that in the 76 years of its existence, aside from a “special” Tony in 1993, it hasn’t won Best Musical, revival or otherwise.
Which is why it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer poetry of the universe when “Oklahoma!” is about to finally receive its Tony in a revival category that only contains one other nominee — “Kiss Me, Kate.” I mean, Come. On.
That being said, Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of “Kiss Me, Kate” is a true delight. For those of who fell in love with musicals through the classics, it doesn’t get much better than this. And I mean that sincerely, despite what the lengthy intro about “Oklahoma!” might suggest.
For those unfamiliar with the story, all you need to know is that it is a show (“We Open in Venice”) within a show (“Taming of the Shrew”) within a show (“Kiss Me, Kate”), but it’s all Shakespeare.
I’ll skip the discussion of the place of “The Taming of the Shrew” in modern theater for now (another day, I promise).
It’s hard not to love a show that showcases talents like Kelli O’Hara, Corbin Bleu, Stephanie Styles, and Kelli O’Hara beating the crap out of Will Chase. Seriously though, this cast is amazing.
Kelli O’Hara continues to cement herself as a gift to musical theater. Yes, her voice is perfection, but her comedic timing is also scary good. We do not deserve her.
Speaking of comedic timing, Stephanie Styles. That’s it. That’s the whole statement. But also, she manages to take Bianca/Lois and make her not just tolerable but downright likable, and she makes it look easy.
Outside of the leads, there’s an ensemble that defies gravity with choreography that has the audience trying to catch its breath. “Too Darn Hot” is, well…the name pretty much says it all. Then there’s Corbin Bleu, who literally tap dances on the ceiling. I promise you, it’s way more impressive than it sounds.
What more can I say except it’s an outstanding revival that one hundred percent respects the source material. It’s shiny and polished. It’s a trip down a classic musical memory lane and it is guaranteed to make you smile.
…Don’t worry I didn’t forget about the Night King slayer. This one has to go to Corbin Bleu as Lucentio/Bill because, and I cannot stress this enough, he tap dances ON THE CEILING. I’m talking without a harness or wire. So there. Thanks for joining me on my nerdy side-journey this week. (Check out the other winners here…”Ain’t Too Proud“, “Beetlejuice“, “Hadestown“)
…just for fun: