Kiss Me, Kate review: ‘succession of triumphs’

By Zephy Losey

As the biggest musical of the year, DULOG’s Gala production always promises to be a fantastic showcase of their abundant talent and impeccable polish. This year’s production of Kiss Me, Kate did not disappoint. From the beautiful opening notes to the closing confetti cannons, the show was a succession of triumphs.

Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate offers many challenges for an ensemble, which director lead her cast through seamlessly. Kiss Me, Kate sees a divorced couple, starring together in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew – through a series of fluke circumstances, real life begins to imitate art. These overlapping stories make for a mishmash of musical styles meaning there was something for everyone in this production. Musical lovers should definitely make time to see this show to get their fill of tap dancing, jazzy numbers, more classically operatic pieces and the all-important ballads.

The two elements that truly made this show were the music and the dancing. Musical Director Nick Fleet ensured that his cast gave their best performances, producing flawless harmonies as well as solos. The dancing in this show was absolutely superb. put together so many vibrant and inventive numbers that were exciting as well as elegant and energetic. Despite the complexity of her choreography, the cast made sure it was shown to its full potential with their unwavering synchronisation.

The audience were immediately drawn into the second act by her interpretation of “It’s Too Darn Hot’ which built perfectly from two characters on stage to the entire cast executing very ambitious choreography with seeming ease. It was the highlight of the show. Special mention should go to Emery and Mackinder for their movement on stage, particularly in “Tom, Dick or Harry”, as well as Henry Gould for his cartwheel!

Kiss Me, Kate (10)
Sorrel Brown and Charlie Keable in DULOG’s Kiss Me, Kate

In truth, there were a few minor hiccups. The band, which was excellent throughout, was occasionally too loud meaning some lyrics got lost. This became fairly frustrating and was especially obvious during “Always True to You in My Fashion” when, despite Sarah Slimani’s fervent performance, many of the words and jokes of the song were missed by the audience due to the uneven balance of audio. Some of the costumes were also slightly ill-fitting; most notable was one of Sorrel Brown’s dresses which remained undone during the entire show.

The sets and lighting were suitably professional at all times with the designs always reflecting the required mood. A highlight was the set for the dressing rooms, which was used to its full advantage when Keable and Brown were standing on either side of the door during “So In Love”. Michael Nower’s Technical team should be especially commended for their faultless scene changes, which were so unobtrusive they were barely noticeable.

The tech crew was, of course, there to support the cast – and what a cast it was! Sorrel Brown as Lilli was outstanding, never missing a single note or cue. Despite the difficulties presented by a character with such emotional range who is herself playing another role, Brown delivered a wonderfully dynamic performance that moved effortlessly from seething to plaintive before returning to besotted. Her shining moment was “I Hate Men’ which saw her easily take command of the entire stage.

Similarly, Charlie Keable as Fred Graham had arguably the strongest stage presence of any of the performers. His movements were unwaveringly natural with his use of physicality and timing enabling him to draw out all of the comedy in his role.

Dominic McGovern and Harvey Comerford in DULOG's Kiss Me, Kate
Dominic McGovern and in DULOG’s Kiss Me, Kate

’s Bill Calhoun and Sarah Slimani’s Lois Lane were just as excellent; they made a very convincing, if slightly dysfunctional, couple. There wasn’t a single member of the cast who let the production down, with a host of memorable scene-stealers including Alex Prescot, Will Emery, Alex Mackinder and Harry Adair.

However, perhaps my favourite element of the show was the comedy duo of and Dominic McGovern who were simply hilarious from the moment they stepped on stage as gangsters. Their starring moment was undoubtedly “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” but they had phenomenal physicality and chemistry throughout. Barton used them to full advantage with continual moments of brilliance – which she smattered throughout the show – such as when they made the sign of the cross with a gun.

That the show didn’t get a standing ovation on opening night was the mistake of the audience as every performance given deserved it. If they continue to perform to that standard for the rest of the week, it will easily be one of the best shows in Durham this year.

Kiss Me, Kate is on at the Gala Theatre, Durham, until Sat 23 January. Book your tickets here

Photographs: Samuel Kirkman

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