Discover his inspiration for the children’s story about a cheeky little fellow with big dreams of being in the spotlight.
Opera North, the northern branch of ENO (English National Opera), has revived Kiss Me, Kate, one of Cole Porter’s finest works, as a co-production with the Welsh National Opera.
The show opened last month at Leeds Grand Theatre for six performances before jetting over to Italy’s Ravenna Festival. As a touring production, it’ll return to the UK for a run at the London Coliseum from 20 – 30 June before heading to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in July.
What is Kiss Me, Kate?
Kiss Me, Kate is based on Shakespeare’s classic The Taming of the Shrew. In addition to Porter’s music and lyrics, it features a book written by husband-and-wife team Sam and Bella Spewack, who’d penned several wacky comedies for stage and film.
Originally premiering on Broadway in 1948, Kiss Me, Kate made its way to the West End in 1951, where it ran for 400 performances at the London Coliseum.
The musical celebrates the joy and madness of working in the theatre with a plot following the tumultuous love lives of actor/manager Fred Graham and his leading lady/ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. While starring in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, all sorts of troubles beset them offstage, courtesy of Fred’s current love interest Lois Lane, her gambling boyfriend Bill Calhoun and a couple of gun-toting gangsters.
The clever show-within-a-show aspect of Kiss Me, Kate typically has audiences reeling with laughter. Plus there’s slew of standout songs to enjoy – from Brush Up Your Shakespeare and Always True to You in My Fashion, to So in Love and Too Darn Hot.
Who stars in Kiss Me, Kate?
The cast is made up of some incredibly talented performers who keep perfectly with Kiss Me, Kate’s longstanding tradition of hilarity while adding their own fresh take on the humour.
In the lead roles are Stephanie Corley as Kate and Quirijn de Lang as Fred. Most recently Corley starred as Tina in Jonathan Dove’s Flight by the Scottish Opera. She’s also had other major roles in productions for Opera North including Hanna in The Merry Widow.
A versatile singer and actor, de Lang brings loads of experience with him as Kate’s tormentor-in-chief. He played Fred in two previous productions of Kiss Me, Kate – by the Welsh National Opera in 2016 and Opera North in 2015. His recent roles include Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and Sam in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.
Turning Fred’s head is Zoë Rainey as Lois. Beloved for playing Belle’s mother in the 2017 film Beauty and Beast, Rainey also appeared as Milo Davenport in the award-winning production of An American in Paris at London’s Dominion Theatre.
Like de Lang, multi-talented Alan Burkitt was part of the Welsh National Opera’s 2016 run of Kiss Me, Kate and he’s returning to his role as rogue and flirt Bill. An original member of the West End cast of Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre, last year Burkitt took another trip to Tin Pan Alley in the lead role.
Also returning from previous runs, Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin are reprising their roles as a pair of dim-witted local mobsters.
What can audiences expect?
With a great mix of opera and musical theatre actors all showing off their talents – from different timbres to vocal tones – this production of Kiss Me, Kate offers a truly unique experience. While one couple has a heavy opera background, the other is well-versed in musical theatre, and they complement each other wonderfully.
Fans of the golden age of Broadway musicals like 42nd Street, An American in Paris, Half a Sixpence and Show Boat, will love Kiss Me, Kate because it’s fun and cheeky, packed with big dance numbers and has a heavy dose of old school humour.
Audiences also go crazy for the gangsters, especially in their slapstick, scene-stealing number Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
Along with amazing tap dancing, a large ensemble and a live orchestra conducted by James Holmes, Kiss Me, Kate boasts some unforgettable numbers such as Too Darn Hot, Another Opening and Tom, Dick, or Harry.
From all angles (not forgetting the manual set changes), there’s so much to enjoy in Kiss Me, Kate, you’ll have a smile on your face the entire time.
What are the critics saying?
“…all the Broadway pizzazz you could hope for… spectacularly energetic…” ★★★★★ – WhatsOnStage
“A cracking good time… a wicked sense of fun.” ★★★★ – The Times
“The pinnacle of song-and-dance Shakespeare…” ★★★★ – The Guardian
“Funny, smart and wise – this is a peach of an evening. Catch it while you can. And then see it again.” ★★★★★ – The Arts Desk
What else do I need to know?
Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate is running at the London Coliseum from 20 – 30 June.
Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.