Liz Coggins reviews Opera North’s production of Kiss Me Kate


In their new seasons’ production of Kiss Me Kate, Opera North have brought together the best of the operatic and musical theatre world and created what can only be described as a ‘marriage made in heaven’

Kiss Me Kate has always been one of my favourites. I first saw it one wet afternoon whilst on holiday at what would be termed today as a ‘vintage cinema’ as a small child. The sight of Howard Keel whirling Kathryn Grayson round in his arms as they sung ‘Wunderbar’ has stuck with me ever since.

So did ‘Always True to You Darling in My Fashion’ which later became a hit song and I often sang in front of the mirror with the archetypal pose of hairbrush in hand as my microphone. Fast forward 25 years and I was lucky enough to be cast as Bianca/Lois Lane before I quit treading the boards and left for sunnier climes.

In view of this, I feel somewhat of a expert on this the work that catapulted Cole Porter back from a career slump to the prince of Broadway with wall-to-wall hits and showstoppers.

The work itself, although it looks light work to the audience, is demanding for its players. Changing your character, clothes and persona back and forth is both exhausting, demands total concentration and stamina. It’s songs vary from the operatic and classical to the modern musical style as does the dance styles – a pavane one time, tap and modern the next.

To describe director Jo Davies production as a triumph is no understatement but this accolade must also extend to Conductor David Charles Abell, who has reconstructed the original orchestrations with co-editor Seann Alderking and Will Tuckett’s spirited and stylised choreography.

This 1948 musical is brimming with vitality, energy and moves at a breakneck speed with Colin Richmond’s ingenious sets. The story revolves around a rather downbeat theatre company and their production of the Taming of the Shrew previewing in Baltimore.

Opera North have drawn on both the operatic and the world of musical theatre to produce a ‘dream team’.

Dutch Baritone Quirijn de Lang as Fred Graham/Petruchio, not only has a fantastic operatic voice, great Shakespearian acting skills but he’s a real piece of eye candy, especially in those leather trousers. He blends perfectly with Jeni Bern’s spirited and fiery Lilli/Katherine in the operatic numbers

Tiffany Graves Lois/Bianca is perfection in a part that demands just about every skill. She carries off comedy, dance routines and the Shakespeare just as Porter intended it. Ashley Day,as Bill/Lucentio is an extremely talented song and dance performer, the perfect match for Graves together they are believable as a pair of down town hoofers.

If I have a favourite number in the show its Brush Up Your Shakespeare with its little sneaky, cheeky innuendoes. John Savournin and Joseph Shovelton, and perform the mammoth task of rhyming set to music magnificently to match their characterization throughout the show of the two gangsters. Together these two are pure gold.

Kiss Me Kate’s success is not just down to a handful of principals. It relies on minor roles, dancers and a very capable chorus and Opera North’s production is crammed full of highly talented singers and dancers with boundless energy and amazing acting skills.

With pulsating numbers like ‘Its Too Darn Hot’ with its high energy choreography, ‘Another Openin, Another Show’ skilfully managed to draw the audience in from the very start this show has a wonderful feel-good factor and is one not to be missed.

Kiss Me Kate is at The Grand Theatre, Leeds as part of the Opera North Season and continues until 31st October.

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