Review: ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

'Kiss Me, Kate'

The Reprise Theater Company fulfills its artistic mandate admirably with its production of "Kiss Me, Kate," polishing up a classic tuner to reveal its virtues anew.

The Reprise Theater Company fulfills its artistic mandate admirably with its production of “Kiss Me, Kate,” polishing up a classic tuner to reveal its virtues anew. If the dance numbers seem long and only tenuously related to the main plot, so what? They’re gloriously performed and choreographed. Director Michael Michetti pulls all of the disparate elements together with aplomb, and the result is a rich confection musical lovers will savor.

The titular Kate, Lesli Margherita, is fantastic in the show, both a knockout singer and a talented comedian. This Kate is more than a match for Petruchio (Tom Hewitt), and Margherita is such a strong presence it seems that the shrew is only tamed at play’s end by the need to conform to Shakespeare’s original ending alone. Margherita displays impressive range as she renders “So In Love” with convincing emotion and a lovely voice, but also belts out “I Hate Men,” a showstopper she delivers with contagiously destructive glee.

Hewitt achieves a nice blend of arrogance and exasperation as Fred, combining the charm of a matinee idol with the anxiety of an actor trying to keep the gig going no matter what. His assured delivery of “I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua” is a comedic highlight. Meg Gillentine and Sean Martin Hingston both demonstrate superb singing and dancing skills in “Always True to You in My Fashion” and “Bianca,” respectively. Finally, Jay Brian Winnick and Herschel Sparber are deadpan terrific as a pair of Shakespeare-loving goons.

Tom Buderwitz’s revolving proscenium arch set is ingenious, a fitting location to spotlight Lee Martino’s ambitious and graceful choreography. Michael Paternostro’s music direction is expert.

Kiss Me, Kate

Freud Playhouse, Los Angeles; 585 seats; $75 top

Production

A Reprise Theater Company presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Sam and Bella Spewack, music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Directed by Michael Michetti.

Creative

Sets, Tom Buderwitz; costumes, Garry Lennon; lighting, Jared A. Sayeg; sound, Philip G. Allen; music direction, Michael Paternostro; choreography, Lee Martino; production stage manager, Jill Gold. Opened May 10, 2011; reviewed May 11. Runs through May 22. Running time: 3 HOURS.

Cast

Lilli Vanessi/Katharine Minola - Lesli Margherita
Fred Graham/Petruchio - Tom Hewitt
Lois Lane/Bianca Minola - Meg Gillentine
Bill Calhoun/Lucentio - Sean Martin Hingston
With: Jay Brian Winnick, Herschel Sparber, Gene Brundage, Mark Capri, Ray Garcia, Scott Alan Hislop, Christine Horn, Roland Rusinek, Jerald Vincent, Steve Vinovich, Joseph Almohaya, Eydie Alyson, Bradley Benjamin, Jennifer Brasuell, Callie Carson, Jessica Carter, Justin Jones, Craig Michael Lucas, Mike A. Motroni, Candy Olsen.

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