Kiss me Kate,the Musical

Kiss Me, Kate is a musical with a book by Samuel and Bella Spewack and music and lyrics by Cole Porter. It is structured as a play within a play, where the interior play is a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew.

Kiss Me, Kate was a comeback and a personal triumph for Cole Porter. After several successful musicals in the 1930s, notably Anything Goes, Du Barry Was a Lady, and Panama Hattie, he experienced an equestrian accident in 1937 that left him in constant pain. Following the accident, he continued to write songs and musicals but with limited success, and some thought he was past his prime. Kiss Me, Kate was a response to Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Oklahoma! and other integrated musicals, and it proved to be his biggest hit and the only one of his shows to run for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway. It won the first Tony Award presented for Best Musical, in 1949.

After a 3½ week pre-Broadway tryout at the Shubert Theatre in Philadelphia starting December 2, 1948, the original Broadway production opened on December 30, 1948 at the New Century Theatre, where it ran for nineteen months before transferring to the Shubert, for a total run of 1,077 performances. Directed by John C. Wilson with choreographed by Hanya Holm, the original cast included Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk, Harold Lang, Edwin Clay, Charles Wood, Annabelle Hill, Lorenzo Fuller, Eddie Sledge, Fred Davis, Harry Clark and Jack Diamond.

The original West End production opened on March 8, 1951 at the Coliseum Theatre, and ran for for 400 performances. Directed by Sam Spewack with choreography again by Hanya Holm, this production starred Patricia Morison, Bill Johnson, and Julie Wilson.

A Broadway revival opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on November 18, 1999 and closed on December 30, 2001 after 881 performances and 28 previews. Directed by Michael Blakemore and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and Rob Ashford, the opening night cast included Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Amy Spanger, Michael Berresse, Ron Holgate, Lee Wilkof, and Michael Mulheren. This production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

A West End revival opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre on October 30, 2001 and closed on August 24, 2002. As with the 1999 Broadway revival, Michael Blakemore was the director with choreography by Kathleen Marshall. Brent Barrett and Marin Mazzie co-starred.

Act I

Egotistical Fred Graham is the director of a Broadway-bound musical version of William Shakespeare‘s The Taming of the Shrew. He and his diva movie-star ex-wife Lilli Vanessi star opposite each other in the roles of Petruchio and Katharine. The pair argue backstage as only people in love can argue. Meanwhile, Fred’s girl, Lois Lane, who plays Bianca, is romantically interested in Bill Calhoun, the actor playing Lucentio. But Lois and Bill are also romantically linked. Bill loves to gamble, and it turns out that he has signed Fred’s name to a big I.O.U. Also, flowers sent by Fred to Lois mistakenly get delivered to Lilli, and Lilli realizes that she still loves Fred.

Everyone is in the middle of performing The Taming of the Shrew on stage when Lilli discovers that Fred’s flowers were really intended for Lois, and she starts an all-out war mid-performance that threatens the production’s success. At the same time, a pair of gangsters have come after Fred to collect the gambling debt, since his name is on the I.O.U. Only a successful show will provide the money that Fred needs to avoid getting his fingers broken. Fred slyly uses the gangsters to prevent the furious Lilli from walking out on the show. The gangsters join the cast to keep an eye on Lilli. Lilli channels her anger into a fierce performance as Katharine, and Fred is forced to spank her as Petruchio.

Act II

After intermission, “The Shrew” progresses as Petruchio marries Katharine and soon misses the single life. The gangsters find out that their boss has been killed, and so the I.O.U. is worthless, and they leave, noting that guys who know Shakespeare can impress the ladies. Lilli quits the show, walking out with her dependable fiance Harrison. On stage, Bianca and Lucentio are finally married. As “The Shrew” comes to a close, Lilli unexpectedly returns to the stage, and speaking as Katharine, she admits her love for Fred. Lilli and Fred are reunited, Lois and Bill come together, and all ends happily.

Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award Composer and Lyricist
Tony Award for Best Author
Tony Award for Best Revival
Drama Desk Outstanding Revival
Evening Standard for Best Musical
Critics Circle for Best Musical

A film version of the same name was released in 1953. There have been at least four television productions, the first on Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1958, with Drake and Morison reprising their Broadway roles, the second recorded for the launch of BBC Two in the UK in 1964, starring Howard Keel, Patricia Morison and Millicent Martin, the third in 1968 with then husband-and-wife team Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence, and the fourth in 2003 on Great Performances, a high-definition shot performance of the London revival with Brent Barrett and Rachel York.

Kiss Me, Kate è una celebre commedia musicale con le musiche di Cole Porter e il libretto di Samuel e Bella Spewack, e fu la prima a vincere un Tony Award come “Miglior Musical”, nel 1949.

Lo spettacolo racconta la vicenda di due attori che un tempo erano marito e moglie, e che si trovano a recitare a Broadway nella versione musicale della commedia shakespeariana La bisbetica domata, con l’ovvia nascita di bisticci e ripicche. Il tutto prende una piega ancora peggiore quando entrano in scena alcuni gangster creditori del produttore dello spettacolo.

Il musical debuttò a Broadway al “New Century Theatre” il 30 dicembre 1948, con la regia di John C. Wilson e le coregografie Hanya Holm. Il cast comprendeva Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk, Harold Lang e Harry Clark. Grazie alla trama spumeggiante, ai meravigliosi numeri di ballo e alle splendide canzoni di Cole Porter (tra cui vanno ricordate “From This Moment On” e “Too Darn Hot”), quest’opera ottenne un trionfale consenso di pubblico e di critica, tanto da aggiudicarsi ben cinque Tony Awards, ovvero quelli per “Miglior Musical”, “Miglior Autore di Musical”, “Miglior Compositore”, “Migliori Costumi” e “Miglior Produzione di un Musical”.

Nel 1999 Kiss Me, Kate fu riportato con successo a Broadway, con la regia di Michael Blakemore e le coreografie di Kathleen Marshall e Rob Ashford; tra gli interpreti figuravano, tra gli altri, Marin Mazzie, Brian Stokes Mitchell e Amy Spanger.


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