Kiss Me Kate is an entertaining night of community theatre. The Bayside-based Savoyards Musical Comedy Society have done a commendable job in putting together an enjoyable version of this Broadway favorite.
Staged in the spacious Iona College Performing Arts Centre, the show works well at dealing with all the difficulties of a “play within a play”. Sets (involving many changes) are excellent and costumes magnificent as the cast switch from playing actors to Shakespearean characters in “The Taming of the Shrew”.
With a cast of more than 40 there are many fine performances, although, as is common with large-scale amateur productions, a degree of unevenness.
Of the principals, operatically-trained Linda Peach gives a very good vocal performance as Lilli/Kate. Of many good numbers her “I hate men” is particularly successful, and she also acts well as both the shrewish Kate and the jealous Lilli. Gary Rose is somewhat more confident playing Petruchio than the lead actor/director Fred, where he is somewhat too understated in performance. His singing is generally up to the mark, although with some uncertainty in upper registers, and in duets he is a little overpowered by Peach. I found their famous duet “Wunderbar” a disappointment. Kim Bridges as Lois needs more projection vocally but warmed up for her Act 2 solos, as did Damien Orth as Bill, who showed his fine lyric voice to best effect in “Bianca”.
The small orchestra captures the Cole Porter mood and beat, but needs more depth in the strings. They sometimes overpower soloists, which is not their fault. The chorus are well-trained vocally, but somewhat static in movement. They are too often immovable blocks on stage, with too little interaction between individuals or across groups, and there is an overall lack of energy during several sequences. Similarly the choreography and its execution needed somewhat more vim.
Alec Raymond and Michael Nash are well cast as the two gangsters who take to the stage as Shakespearean courtiers in order to keep the leading lady from fleeing. Their “Brush up your Shakespeare” is the hit of the night, earning several encores.
Despite some flaws this is in all an enjoyable production for which the Savoyards deserve congratulation in this, their 40th year.