By Hazel Millard
As explained in the review of the Friday/Monday cast of Kiss Me, Kate, this year’s spring musical’s leads were double casted, so it only seemed appropriate to publish reviews of both. I had the pleasure of attending the show’s final performance on Tuesday, April 16th.
I have only seen one other musical at Tech, last year’s musical, Grease. Although I was impressed by that production, I feel that the performances and coherence of this year’s musical surpassed last year’s.
Right from the beginning of the show, I was struck by the colorful and polished set. Stage Works did a phenomenal job. It was anything but simple, with multiple large structures that had to be changed every time the plot switched from Shakespeare to Porter.
I was impressed by the large screens lowered on stage that depicted the old Italian city in which The Taming of the Shrew took place and the backdrop of a Baltimore street.
I also was a fan of the Shakespearean costumes. Their gaudy and colorful nature was both entertaining and helpful in establishing the light-hearted nature of the play within the play.
My favorite part of the musical was not the set or the costumes, but Anne-Laure White’s ’13 performance as Lilli Vanessi. Throughout the show, I enjoyed by her acting and dancing talents, but her voice and its astonishing range were truly the highlights of the show.
In “Wunderbar” White powerfully displayed her higher pitches. To contrast, White’s “I Hate Men,” which yielded uproarious applause from the audience, was appropriately punctuated by shrieks and screams. “I Hate Men” was easily the best performance of the show.
White’s male counterpart, Ralph Schneider ’13 filled the role of Fred Graham nicely. His character’s rationality balanced White’s theatricality. Their voices worked well together in many of their duets, especially “Wunderbar.”
The other romantic duo of the show, Lois Lane, played by Simona Zhukovski ’13, and Bill Calhoun, played by Collin Champagne ’13, were strong as a duo, especially during the dance numbers “Why Can’t You Behave” and “Always True to You in My Fashion.” However, in individual performances White and Schneider were clearly the stars of the show.
Opening Act II, Emanuella Reznik performed as the female version of Paul, or in this case, Paulie. Her song, “Too Darn Hot,” infused the otherwise standard music with a moment of jazz. This was one of the bigger dance numbers, and was obviously well choreographed and rehearsed.
The two gangsters, played by Anna Schierenbeck ’14 and Joe Bosco ’15, provided great comic relief to what otherwise would have felt like a lengthy Act II. Their gun-toting presence during The Taming of the Shrew and their physical comedy, reminiscent of the Three Stooges, elicited great laughs from the audience.
Their duet “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” sung with thick, stereotypical New York accents, had great personality, or as they would say, “poysonality.”
The musical accompaniment was great, but, depending on where you sat in proximity to the speakers, it sometimes overpowered the vocals. There were some technical issues with microphones throughout the show, but they didn’t detract from the performances.
I would finally like to commend the choice of musical this year.
Director and English teacher Christina Massie says they chose the play because, “Kelly D’Antoni, Caitlin Wockenfuss, and myself were familiar with it. We liked that it was light and lively with a lot of dancing. We thought it would be entertaining if people gave it a chance.”
Instead of going with a production that has name recognition, like Grease, the professional team behind Kiss Me, Kate took a chance on a lesser-known show and it was definitely worth the risk.