“Cole Porter meets William Shakespeare” is how director Jennifer Ross describes the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” opening Friday, Jan. 27, and running through Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.
Written by Samuel and Bella Spewack, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, this play-within-a-play features newly divorced Broadway stars Fred Graham (Joe Gumina) and Lilli Vanessi (Brittany Whitson), who are appearing in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Joining them in the cast are young rising actors Lois Lane (Heather Allen) and Bill Calhoun (Christopher Ward), who are notorious for doing anything they can—inside the law and out—to get their big break. Complications arise with romantic misunderstandings between Fred, Lois, and Lilli, who has just become engaged to another man. A pair of prison-educated gangsters adds to the chaos backstage, when Bill’s gambling debts mount up, and he signs an IOU in Fred’s name.
“I think this show is fun for audiences because it lets them see what happens in shows behind the scenes, and how that can affect an actor’s performance on stage,” said Brittany Whitson. “That, and the music is really wonderful.”
Cole Porter, whose music dominated mid-century America, wrote the score for “Kiss Me Kate,” which won the first ever Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. The show is filled with songs that have since become American standards, such as the romantic “So In Love,” sung by Lilli and Fred.
Other numbers include a rousing rendition of “From This Moment On,” the flirtatious “Why Can’t You Behave,” and the hilarious “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.
“Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” which has become an anthem for theaters across the world, first appeared in the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” and is performed by the talented ensemble cast in an energetic, toe-tapping dance number.
The show features several breath-taking dance sequences, expertly choreographed by Heather Allen.
The songs from “Kiss Me Kate” are instantly recognizable, and they’re part of the American musical landscape. In 2015, Kiss Me Kate’s 1949 original cast recording was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for the album’s “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.
Rounding out this spectacular cast are Josh Baldwin, Austin Bird, Will Bishop, Summer Boothe, Brooklynn DeFreece, Jaclyn DiDonato, Ben Garber, Caroline Garber, Madelyn Goward, Shawn Hale, Lindy Ley, Jacob Maurer, Paul McQuaid, Mike Musick, Dominic Peterson, Dakota Reynolds, Jessica Shelton, Derek Smithpeters, Don Squibb, Connie Taylor, Corey Tickles, Kari Tuthill, Alex Vanburen, Michelle Weintre, Heather Whalen and Tara White.
Shows will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.