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Kiss Me Kate by Welsh National Opera - Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Is This Cole Porter Musical Too Darn Hot?
With a dash of old school charm, 1950's Hollywood glamour and timeless Cole Porter songs, the Welsh National Opera (WNO) has picked another fine choice for its venture into musicals.

Kiss me Kate, wno, welsh national opera, Birmingham hippodrome
Comedy and mayhem in Cole Porter classic Kiss Me Kate

Following on from last year's hugely successful WNO production of Sweeney Todd, the opera company is offering Kiss Me Kate as part of its Shakespeare-themed Autumn season at Birmingham Hippodrome.

It's a good choice for the Shakespeare season as it's based around a group of actors putting on The Taming Of The Shrew and how their lives have similarities with the Bard's play.

Their hilarious, badly-performed Shrew performance is the play within the play and affected by the tumultous relationship between the divorced lead actors, with some gangsters thrown into the mix to add to the mayhem.

For fans of the original, this version directed by Jo Davies stays faithful to that and also the famous 1953 film starring Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in its style, costumes and set.

Although set in the 1950s, it doesn't feel dated because it has retained a certain charm. The oafish gangsters ( Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin) are particularly lovable and silly, and get to perform one of the most famous songs of the show - Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

Wno kiss me Kate, welsh national opera, Birmingham hippodrome
Gangsters Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin are hilarious

Although a little slow to get going, the pace of the action and comedy speeds up as the story progresses, so much so that the second act is a whirlwind of hilarity and big song and dance numbers, including a spellbinding tap dance routine.

There's also a tender romantic chemistry between the leads which adds a sparkle to the production. Quirijn de Lang is excellent as romantic hero Fred Graham while I saw understudy Claire Wild playing the role of Katherine (or Kate), and she too was in extremely fine form and voice.

What the WNO is doing so well at the moment is to adapt the same grandiose sets, excellent musical prowess and slick storytelling seen in its operas into popular musicals.

The WNO is also wisely choosing musicals that have particularly strong or unique soundtracks with technically difficult songs. Music is of course at the core of any Cole Porter show and Kiss Me Kate is a score overflowing with great numbers.

Kiss me Kate, wno, welsh national opera, Birmingham hippodrome
This version is true to the original

It ranges from the rousing chorus songs of Another Op'nin', Another Show and Kiss Me, Kate to the jazz-influenced Too Darn Hot and Always True to You in My Fashion. Added to that are beautifully harmonious and melodramatic tunes like So In Love and Wunderbar to bring out an air of slushy romance.

Kiss Me Kate stays at Birmingham Hippodrome from November 10 to 12 before moving on to Venue Cymru in Llandudno from November 24 to November 26. The show can also be seen at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff until December 10.

It's a feel-good, well thought out production that shows how well the WNO can adapt to more than just opera. It's also unmissable for fans of the musical Kiss Me Kate.

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Why? See classic musical Kiss Me Kate
When: Showing on tour until December 10, 2016
Phone: Various
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, then Venue Cymru and Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Cost: From 17.33
Your Comment
Looks set to be an amazing show! Great review
by Jay Johnson (score: 3|1368) 2095 days ago
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