Preview: 5th Avenue Theatre Focuses In On Gender Equality With Kiss Me, Kate

Kiss Me, Kate at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre on Equality365.com

Uh-oh, Petruchio and Katherine are at it again, but this time they are singing in Kiss Me, Kate, one of Cole Porter’s best Broadway musicals, now playing at 5th Avenue Theatre through April 29th.

PETRUCHIO
Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!

KATHERINE
The moon? The sun! It is not moonlight now.

PETRUCHIO
I say it is the moon that shines so bright.

KATHERINE
I know it is the sun that shines so bright.

PETRUCHIO
I say it is the moon.

KATHERINE
I know it is the moon.

PETRUCHIO
Nay, then you lie. It is the blessèd sun

Adapted from the Bard’s comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, Kiss Me, Kate is part of Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare, a city-wide festival honoring the work of the iconic playwright.

The popular musical, celebrating its 70th anniversary, debuted on Broadway in 1948. It’s a delightful musical romp about the war between sexes, which 5th Avenue is promoting with the buzzwords, “gender equality.”

Kiss Me, Kate tells the tale of two feuding musical theater stars Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi. Once married, they are now performing opposite each other as Petruchio and Katherine in a Broadway-bound musical version of Shakespeare’s play. Like the Bard’s battle between Petruchio and Katherine, the sassy pair soon faces off an all-out emotional war. Their love/hate battles spill on to the stage, threatening the production’s success. A secondary romance involves the flirtatious Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul of two gangsters, who just happen to sing and dance.

Directed by Alan Paul (his 5th Avenue Theatre debut), the music and lyrics are by Cole Porter, the book by Samuel & Bella Spewack, and choreography by Michele Lynch. Paul and Lynch both worked on a 2015 production of the show at Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

Robyn Hurder and Clyde Alves in the Shakespeare Theatre Company Production of Kiss Me, Kate (Photo Credit Scott Suchman) on equality365.com

Robyn Hurder and Clyde Alves in the Shakespeare Theatre Company Production of “Kiss Me, Kate” (Photo Credit Scott Suchman)

The musical contains some of Porter’s best songs, including “So in Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Wunderbar,” and the clever, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

Kiss Me, Kate was Porter’s response to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and other integrated musicals. It proved to be one of Porter’s biggest hits–the only one of his shows to run for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway.

Playing Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, Cayman Ilika is known to Seattle audiences for her portrayal of Patsy Cline in Always… Patsy Cline at Centerstage, her performances in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and Vanities (The 5th Avenue Theatre/ACT Theatre co-productions), and in Village Theatre’s Mary Poppins. Ben Davis makes his 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Fred Graham/Petruchio. Davis’s Broadway credits include Les MisérablesVioletA Little Night Music and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Clyde Alves and Robyn Hurder co-star as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio and Lois Lane/Bianca. Alves and Hurder are both making their 5th Avenue Theatre debut; they also performed the rules in the 2015 Shakespeare Theatre Company production.

The subsequent 1953 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation of the musical differed slightly from the stage version. Scenes were rearranged, and some of Porter’s naughty, risqué lyrics had to be cleaned up to placate the censors. The movie was filmed in 3-D using the most advanced methods of that technique at that time. Devotees of the stereoscopic 3-D medium usually cite this film as one of the best examples of a Hollywood release in polarized 3-D.

FYI: The film also featured a young dancer named Bob Fosse, making his first film performance with a glimpse of his soon-to-be trademark moves.

Kiss Me, Kate runs through April 29 at 5th Avenue Theatre; tickets start at $29 and are on sale now. They can be purchased at www.5thavenue.org, by phone at 206-625-1900 or at the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in Downtown Seattle.

You might also like to check out more 5th Avenue Theatre productions for this season here.

More About The People Behind Kiss Me, Kate

About the Leads
Cayman Ilika returns to The 5th Avenue Theatre to star as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine. Her previous 5th Avenue Theatre credits include Oliver!The Pirates of PenzanceSaving AimeeCandide and Buddy. She has been seen in the 5th Avenue Theatre/ACT Theatre co-productions Jacques Brel is Alive & Well and Living in Paris and Vanities – A New Musical (Kathy) with ACT Theatre and in the world premiere of Beatsville(Natasha) with Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. Other favorites include Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, Gregory Award Nominee) and Show Boat (Julie, Footlight Award) at Village Theatre and Persuasion(Anne Elliot) at Taproot.

Ben Davis makes his 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Fred Graham/Petruchio. He performed on Broadway in Violet (Preacher), A Little Night Music (Mr. Lindquist), Les Misérables (Javert & Enjolras), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Trevor Graydon) and Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème (Marcello – 2003 Tony Honor) and toured with The Sound of Music (Captain von Trapp) and Spamalot (Galahad). His UK credits include BBC Proms Kiss Me, Kate at Royal Albert Hall (Fred/Petruchio) and Sondheim at 85 with RTÉ Orchestra. His regional credits include South Pacific (Emile de Becque) and Oklahoma! (Curly) at The MUNY, Anna Nicole the Opera at BAM (Billy Smith), R&H with the Boston Pops at Tanglewood, Lincoln Center American Songbook Series, Kurt Weill’s Knickerbocker Holiday (Brom Broeck) opposite Kelli O’Hara and Victor Garber, Westchester Philharmonic with Kelli O’Hara, Show Boat (Gaylord Ravenal) at Goodspeed Opera House and at LA Philharmonic. He has been seen on Film/TV as Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute directed by Kenneth Branagh and the film version of Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge.

Clyde Alves makes his 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio. He was seen on Broadway in On The Town (Ozzie, Astaire Award nomination); Bullets Over BroadwayNice Work If You Can Get It;Anything GoesWickedHairsprayOklahoma! and The Music Man (Tommy Djilas, Astaire Award winner). He reprised Tommy Djilas in ABC’s The Music Man. Alves was also seen Off-Broadway in Altar Boyz(Juan). He has performed in the recent encores of Hey, Look Me Over! (George M) and The New Yorkers (Monahan) and has performed regionally in the world premiere of The New World (Tago, Bucks County Playhouse); Crazy for You (Bobby Child, Drury Lane Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination); Nice Work If You Can Get It (Jimmy Winter, Music Theatre Wichita); Oklahoma! (Will Parker, The Muny) and Kiss Me, Kate(Bill Calhoun, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Helen Hayes Award winner).

Robyn Hurder makes her 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Lois Lane/Bianca. She has performed on Broadway in Nice Work If You Can Get It (Jeannie Muldoon), Grease (Marty), Chicago (Mona, Roxie u/s),Wedding Singer (Holly u/s), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Violet). She performed in the NYCC Encores! productions of The New Yorkers (Lola McGee) and Paint Your Wagon (Cherry Jourdell) and was in the national tours of A Chorus Line (Cassie), Spamalot and Starlight Express (Pearl). She has performed regionally at Drury Lane Theatre in Crazy for You (Polly Baker); Shakespeare Theatre Company in Kiss Me, Kate (Lois Lane, 2016 Helen Hayes Award Recipeint for Best Supporting Actress, 2016 Emery Battis Award for Excellence in Acting Recipient); Ogunquit Playhouse in Victor Victoria (Norma Cassidy) and From Here to Eternity (Karen Holmes) and at Mason Street Warehouse in Chicago (Roxie).

About the Writers
Cole Porter (Music and Lyrics) was born in Peru, Indiana in 1891. He attended Yale, where his football songs are still popular. After his first Broadway show bombed, he exiled himself to Europe and married legendary beauty Linda Thomas. Returning to New York in the late 1920s, he gained renown as the composer of some of the greatest songs ever heard on stage or screen, among them “Night and Day,” “You’re the Top,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Love for Sale.” The 1930s were highlighted by Anything GoesGay Divorce, Jubilee and Born to Dance. An accident in 1937 left him in constant pain, yet he continued to write memorable scores, among them Can-CanSilk Stockings and his masterpiece, Kiss Me, Kate. He died in 1964.

Samuel and Bella Spewack (Book) were reporters who met while working for their newspapers: Sam, The World; Bella, The Call. They married in 1922. Sam attended Columbia University in 1919. Bella chronicled her early years in the autobiography: Streets: A Memoir of The Lower East Side (1922), published posthumously (1995, Feminist Press). Their first play was Solitaire Man, written in 1926. Clear All Wires (1932) became Leave It to Me! (1938), their first collaboration with Cole Porter; Boy Meets Girl (1935) was inspired by Hollywood adventures. Among some 20 films were My Favorite Wife (1940) andWeekend at the Waldorf (1945). Kiss Me, Kate (1948) won Spewacks the first Tony Award ever given to the book of a musical. Others: Two Blind Mice (1949), My 3 Angels (1953), Festival (1955), Mr. Broadway(1957) and Once There Was a Russian (1961).

About the Director
Alan Paul makes his debut at The 5th Avenue Theatre with Kiss Me, Kate. Paul serves as the Associate Artistic Director at The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. where he has directed Romeo and JulietKiss Me, KateMan of La ManchaA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2014 Helen Hayes Award Winner for Best Director) and revivals of Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale. Regional credits include The Pajama Game (Arena Stage); I Am My Own Wife (Signature Theatre); Silence! the Musical and The Rocky Horror Show (The Studio Theatre); Fully Committed (Metro Stage) and many others. Classical credits include Penny (Washington National Opera), The Pirates of Penzance (Palm Beach Opera), Man of La Mancha (Portland Opera) and numerous collaborations with The National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Upcoming projects include Camelot and The Comedy of Errors at The Shakespeare Theatre.

About the Choreographer
Michele Lynch returns to The 5th Avenue Theatre, having previously worked on Hairspray as associate choreographer. Her Broadway credits include Everyday RaptureThe Coast of UtopiaHairspray (associate choreographer), The Full Monty (assistant choreographer), Urinetown (assistant choreographer) and Victor/Victoria (performer) and her Off-Broadway credits include Little Miss SunshineEveryday Rapture andWe the People. Select regional credits Kiss Me, Kate (Helen Hayes Award), Sondheim on Sondheim (Hollywood Bowl), Dirty Dancing (National Tour & Australian Tour), IDAHO! (The Smith Center), Little House on the Prairie (National Tour), Happy Days (Connecticut Critics Circle Award) and Show Boat (The Kennedy Center). Her work has been seen on film in The Last Five YearsJoyful Noise and Camp and in concert for Harvey Milk (Avery Fisher Hall) and Dolly Parton’s Better Day World Tour.

About the Music Director
Joel Fram returns for his 18th collaboration with The 5th Avenue Theatre. He has worked extensively in New York and London, conducting the Broadway productions of ScandalousWickedSweet Smell of SuccessThe Music ManJames Joyce’s The DeadJumpers and Cats; the West End company of Wicked; and Forbidden Broadway at the Menier Chocolate Factory. U.S. National Tours and regional credits include FalsettosCats and A…My Name is Alice (cast album). His collaboration with Andrew Lippa has included the world premieres of john & jenThe Little Princess and I Am Harvey Milk at Avery Fisher Hall with Kristin Chenoweth. At New York’s Symphony Space, he co-produced the eight-hour marathon “Wall to Wall Stephen Schwartz” and, for Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday, co-produced and curated the 12-hour marathon “Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim.” Fram currently runs the Musical Theatre Writing workshop at the National Theatre in London and is a Creative Producer for the Universal Music Theatre Development Office. Upcoming productions include Company in the West End, produced by Marianne Elliott.

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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