KISS ME, KATE – Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter; Book by Sam and Bella Spewack; Directed by Ken Cazan; Choreographed by Daniel Pelzig; Orchestra conducted by Adam Turner. Produced by the Central City Opera (124 Eureka Street, Central City) through August 5. Tickets available at 303-292-6700 or centralcityopera.org.
God bless them, the Central City Opera Company quite often pops a true Broadway musical into their schedule to give us theatre folk an excuse to spend an afternoon or evening in our own Las Vegas up the hill. The show they chose this year could not be MORE Broadway if it tried. With its show within a show format giving the audience a backstage peek during a performance of a musical version of TAMING OF THE SHREW. Fred Graham (Jonathan Hays) and Lilli Vanessi (Emily Brockway) were once married, went through a contentious divorce, and are now stuck with working together to the dismay of both. While each secretly regrets the divorce at this point, neither is willing to admit it. Their relationship echoes the “merry war” between Katherine and Petruchio in the play they are performing. An especially sweet scene/song starts as they reluctantly remember a past production in which their characters had a “Wunderbar” relationship which reminds them of their past love.
A second subplot involves two of the other dancers in the show. Lauren Gemelli is playing Lois, a dancer in the cast, and Bianca, the younger sister in the play. She has a casual but hot affair going with Bill Calhoun (Jeffrey Scott Parsons). The nature of their coupling is explored when Lois sings to Bill “Why Can’t You Behave?” and then tells him that she is “Always True to Him in My Fashion.”
Yet a third subplot introduced the comic relief characters in the form of two gangsters who are brought in to keep the show on track so they can collect the money owed them. Dressed in borrowed or swiped tunics, they invade the performance and regal the audience with “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in a show-stopping number. Adelmo Guidarelli and Isaiah Feken make the most of their time on stage.
The majority of the huge cast are members of the opera company of trained and apprentice singers. The leads are also trained singers but trained in the Broadway tradition. The difference in style becomes evident when one of the opera singers takes a solo line or two and struggles with sounding “Broadway.” But all in all, the blend of voices works remarkably well. Six dancers from local companies and beyond join the cast to add a needed bounce to the dance numbers. And look at Jeffrey Parsons go! Not only does he act and sing beautifully to play Bill Calhoun, Lois’s wandering boyfriend, but he can tap dance like nobody’s business.
The supporting crew of costumer Jeff Mahshie, set designer Matthew Crane, lighting designer Abigail Hoke-Brady, and sound designer Jason Ducat make everything else ready for the cast to do their thing. It all works but, I have to say, when the whole cast gets on stage at the same time, it gets a little crowded. Director Ken Cazan had his work cut out for him to maneuver everyone into place during those scenes.
It’s a long haul up the canyon to partake, but on a cool summer evening, it’s a great place to be. Even Wunderbar.
A WOW factor of 8.75!!