Music/Lyrics: Cole Porter
Book: Bella and Samuel Spewack
Director: Jo Davies
Conductor: James Holmes
Reviewer: John Roberts
Last year the Welsh National Opera brought their dark and foreboding production of Sweeney Todd to the Empire, this year to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Celebrations the company bring a vibrant and engaging (if a little too long) revival of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate.
The plot centres around the lead performers during a production of Taming of the Shrew both on stage and off with their relationships affecting not only everything that happens behind the scenes but also what happens on stage during their performance. This is frivolous fun and provides plenty of laughs – it may help if the audience are aware of Shakespeare’s play, but by no means does it hinder your enjoyment if you don’t.
Director Jo Davies packs the production with all the hallmarks of a classic musical with plenty of physical comedy throughout and when partnered alongside strong production values including Colin Richmond’s adaptable set and colourful costume design and Will Tuckett’s flamboyant but timeless choreography it’s hard not to be swept away by the extravagance.
To hear Cole Porter’s score played by a full orchestra is always a joy to behold and under James Holmes’ exquisite conducting the WNO Orchestra sound so rich and full. The WNO chorus also help swell the musical numbers making certain scenes feel very extravagant and rich. But it’s not just the production values of the show that is in fine form, the cast are too.
It great to see Amelia Adams-Pearce finally get the leading lady status she deserves and here in the role of ditzy Lois Lane she excels on every level. Quirijn de Lang as the leading male protagonist Fred Graham/Petruchio brings plenty of ego and chauvinistic charm to the role and Jeni Bern as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine is sublime to the point of faultless as the diva performer. Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin bring plenty of laughs to the role of the haphazard hoodlums and nearly steal the show with their rendition of Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
Welsh National Opera have scored a hit with this revival, it’s just a shame that running at nearly 3.5hours the team couldn’t find a way of trimming the show to a more friendlier running time.
Runs until Friday 7 October 2016 | Image:Alastair Muir