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THEATER REVIEW: Kiss Me, Kate

by Chris Conley

I don't write reviews for high school drama productions.

High school productions are almost always uneven. You can have a leading actor who's about to go to college on a fine arts scholarship playing opposite someone who's about to graduate and work at the father's insurance agency. This level of theater is suppose to be about having fun. It is an extra-curricular activity. And writing criticism of high school acting is no different than criticizing the football team for a losing season. It's bad form.

But praise is always welcome.

There are several praise-worthy performances at Wausau East's production of Kiss Me, Kate .

Hallye Webb was outstanding as Lilly, the female lead. She has one of the best high school singing voices in Central Wisconsin. It was a joy to hear every one of her songs.

Kate Seybold is a very strong singer and dancer. She plays Bianca, which is one of the best, and most demanding, supporting actress roles in all of musical theater. It's also a role you can have fun with. She did, and the audience did too.

Anna Anderson (Paula) and Kelsey Burgess (Hattie) are both very good singers, and found the bounce in Cole Porter's lyrics.

Cole Porter's music defines the Great American Songbook, and Kiss Me, Kate is his peak.

I'm too young to have seen the first-runs of any of the classic Broadway musicals. I've saw some of the second and third revivals as a kid. Some shows were brought back that shouldn't have been. Others were butchered and rearranged and re choreographed to the point that they couldn't be compared to the originals.

Cole Porter's estate wouldn't allow his shows to be altered, and from its closing in 1950 there was no New York revival of Kiss Me, Kate until 1999. I waited in line for those tickets, and was treated to a marvelous production that was exactly as The Master would have wanted us to see it. It starred Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell, who appeared together a year earlier in the Broadway debut of Ragtime .

Cole Porter wrote his own music and his own lyrics; he is Rogers and Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin. And his stuff is fabulous. And Kiss Me, Kate is one of the few shows where you'll be humming several tunes to yourself on the way home... Too Darn Hot , Always True To Your In My Fashion , or Tom, Dick or Harry ... and, for good measure, So In Love With You Am I is one of the most under-rated love songs in American theater.

Cole Porter's musicals doesn't come around very often. You have one more chance to see it at Wausau-East, Sunday at 1pm.

Chris Conley
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau

4.17.11

By Photo: Alice Strid (http://libris.kb.se/bib/9065171) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons