Brittany Pierce’s Review of Kiss Me, Kate

July 3, 2018

Forestburgh Playhouse

Forestburgh

“It’s too darn hot.” No truer words were spoken during this, the heatwave of 2018. But not only does this apply to the weather, but to the performances currently gracing the stage at the Forestburgh Playhouse in Kiss Me, Kate. From the very first number this cast proves why the Playhouse is one of the premiere theatres in the area.

The description on Forestburgh’s website sums up this iconic musical best: “Passions run high as leading lady Lilli Vanessi and her ex-husband, actor/director Fred Graham, battle onstage and off in a production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. With romance, comedy, sophistication, and behind-the-scenes hijinks, Kiss Me, Kate combines the irreverent humor of two brilliant writers: Cole Porter and William Shakespeare.” What is presented is a high-spirited song-and-dance-fest of talent.

First and foremost, Chaz Wolcott is a dancing god (and a mighty fine director). The dance numbers in this production were PHENOMENAL and the dancers were second to none. You could feel the energy radiating from them, and you could sense that they were glad to be there. This was a big Broadway musical at its finest, and Wolcott assembled a cast worthy of the Great White Way.

The ResCo does not disappoint in this production, but the knockouts were Julia Hemp as Lois Lane/Bianca, Benjamin Sears as Bill Calhoun/ Lucentio, Jonathan Savage as Gremio and Andrew Purdy as Hortensio. I seriously could have watched this group do fifteen reprises of “Tom, Dick or Harry” and been thrilled with every minute. The voices, the chemistry, and the moves – these four have it all. And the rest of the company is to be commended for the stellar group numbers, specifically “Too Darn Hot,” although Nick Drake as Paul stole that scene.

         As Lilli Vanessi/Katharine Minola, Gail Bennett shone particularly in her moments of shrew-ness; her anger and sheer passion contrasted well with her more love-struck moments. Her rendition of “So In Love” was heartbreakingly beautiful, but I felt her “I Hate Men” was much more showing of her range as an actress. Her moments of levity were much more genuine. Peter Gosik as Fred Graham/Petruchio was the right combination of leading man (oh, that voice!) and egotistical maniac that you wanted to trip backstage. And let’s not forget Steve Luker and Matthew Curiano as First and Second Man respectively (yes, that is what they are called). They are truly adorable as the bumbling gangsters who try to “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

lukerThere wasn’t a moment in this show when I wanted it to end. The costumes! The singing! Did I mention the dancing? Everything came together for a truly wonderful night at the Miracle of the Forest, the Forestburgh Playhouse!

         Kiss Me, Kate runs through July 15. Tickets and information are available by calling the box office at 845-794-1194 or by visiting www.fbplayhouse.org.

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