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Kiss Me Kate – Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London

Composer &Lyricist: Cole Porter

Book writer: Sam and Bella Spewack

Director: John Plews

Reviewer: Tom Finch

[rating:4]

Lois on shouldersKiss Me Kate is based around the off and on stage antics of a cast performing in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. The lead actor, Fred Graham, who is also the producer and director is in constant spats with his leading lady, Lilli Vanessi, a failed Hollywood actress and also his ex wife. Throw in a subplot between the second leads Lois Lane and Bil Calhoun and mix well with some gangsters and you’ve got a pretty ridiculous show.

The show opens with a burst of energy with the youthful ensemble rehearsing for the opening and this production is at its best during the large production numbers. The quality of the dancing from the cast can easily rival the West End.

Gavin Keenan as Fred Graham gets some real laughs from his lines and he is particularly enjoyable to watch in his scenes playing Petruchio in the show within a show. His leading lady Sabrina Carter is a terrific Lilli. Her smouldering anger is palpable and her voice is simply stunning. The two actors work well together demonstrating great chemistry and confidence on the stage with each other.

The star of this production though may well be Olivia Holland-Rose in the rôle of Lois Lane. Her voice and her stage presence are both wonderful. She owns the stage and was born to be there. Her rendition of Always True to you in my Fashion was goosebump inducing. If she isn’t leading a West End cast in a few years it will be a great loss.

The rest of the cast are all excellent with special mention going to Dean Bray as Paul who really makes the most of his big moment in Too Darn Hot.

John Plew’s production places an emphasis on the music and occasionally feels as though it is struggling against the book which now feels somewhat old fashioned. Lines which could be played for laughs sometimes fall a bit flat which can lead to some of the longer scenes dragging. It is never too long until the next song though which picks up the pace again and gets things back on track.

Fi Russell’s set is simple and makes wonderful use of the Gatehouse space. The five piece band sound beautiful although the sound levels were way off meaning that the music drowned out a a lot of the singing. In such a small venue this is pretty unforgivable and needs to be addressed pronto.

Photo: Darren Bell

Runs until 26th January

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.