Theater review: Kiss Me Kate is a treat ... with a twist

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review by Jim Anderson

Seattle Musical Theater presents a treat in 'Kiss Me Kate'. Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew' was recreated as 'Kiss Me Kate' in the late 1940's by Samuel and Bella Spewack with the music of Cole Porter. However, this Spewack re-creation has a twist, in that our actors are portraying other actors performing 'The Taming of the Shrew'. The main storyline, in place of Shakespeare's man pursuing a rich bride, sees an estranged couple trying to work together on stage ... while being 'babysat' by mobsters.

Offered to the stage of Seattle Musical Theater in Seattle at Magnuson Community Center through April, 'Kiss Me Kate' showcases talented leads, fabulous music and fantastic choreography by an enjoyable chorus. Truly memorable scenes with strong vocal performances almost make the instrumentalists disappear - if that were possible. The orchestra was fantastic and another means by which Seattle Musical Theater continues to grow.

By the third song, 'Wunderbar', lead actors Tae Phoenix and Jimmi Cook had the audience wrapped up in the story line as they portrayed with tangible believability that the relationship of these estranged lovers deserved to be mended.

Then we had the gangsters, portrayed by Anna Vizzare and John Han, who nearly stole the show with quirky antics and lines that continually found unanticipated comical timing. Their tune, 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare', besides making a transition to the last two scenes is memorable. If they were seen as talented before, this tune made them cute and perhaps endearing.

Watch the dancers and chorus for smiles and timing and staying naturally in tune with their characters, not just their songs. They are a delight to watch and enjoyable.

Not only is this performance G-rated, 'Kiss Me Kate' is another step in the right direction for Seattle Musical Theater and a fitting teaser for their 40th anniversary season coming next year. Look for 'My Fair Lady', 'Annie', 'Ain't Misbehavin'' and 'The Producers' next year. The inclusion of 'Annie' in this 40th anniversary season is a tip of the hat to its original Broadway release the same year, 1977, that Seattle Musical Theater began as Civic Light Opera.

At Seattle Musical Theater, the growth of talent and the way it is presented is art. It is always good for civil society to have art growing and developing in its midst. 'Kiss Me Kate' displays a commitment by SMT to have their craft developing and growing here in our community. We can only hope that Seattle Parks will grow in its commitment to keep them in this venue, so these improvements both in the art and in the art facility may go on.

Running all April at the Warren Magnuson Park Community Center on Sand Point Way, 'Kiss Me Kate' tells Seattle that this company is a worthy and affordable complement to our community. 

Showings are Thursday through Saturday through April 30 with 7:30pm performances and 2pm Sunday matinees. 7120 62nd Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115


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