Who does not love Cole Porter Lyrics and Music? Kiss Me Kate was Cole Porter’s greatest success winning the first Tony awarded to a Best Musical in 1949 and he also won Best Original Score. How could one miss with a story involving two contentious ex-lovers putting on a musical production of Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew? Following the trend of Rogers and Hammerstein’s groundbreaking musical Oklahoma which for the first time closely tied the story to the music and lyrics; Cole Porter continued this trend by integrating a romantic oversized comedy written by Bella and Sam Spewak into lyrics and music. Cole Porter was brilliant. He created music into storylines much as Shakespeare used music to convey emotion and engage audience members of his time. His range creating musical scores was amazing. He was able to write jazz for the 1940’s Baltimore world of Kate; while constructing Elizabethan harmonies for the Taming of the Shrew the characters in the play within the play are performing.
Kiss Me Kate is a delightful iconic musical timeless in scope. Interestingly enough, Mariott Lincolnshire’s production of Kiss Me Kate is being directed by first-timer Johanna Mackenzie Miller who twenty years ago made her acting debut under the same spotlight. She has reimagined this classic tale through a more modern perspective. She concentrates on Lilli’s experience in a male-dominated role the story shifts and we see Lilli realize her worth as an artist and woman. “Rather than changing what was originally on the page, I hope to make sense of it in the present day and give women the voice they need to tell their stories,” says Director Johanna McKenzie Miller. Two Jeff Award winners are guiding these outstanding performances Ryan T. Nelson’s, exceptional musical direction and Alex Sanchez’s lively choreography.
The conflicts creating the tension in this romantic comedy are based on the legendary altercations between real-life actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. In this play, the very talented Susan Moniz stars as Lilli Vanessi/Kate battling with Larry Adams who plays both the narcissistic, yet charming director Fred Graham and the actor Petruchio. Supporting actor, Alexandra Palkovic plays the ingenue nightclub floozy, Lois Lane, who is also supporting her gambling loser boyfriend, Bill Calhoun/Lucenito portrayed by Bill May. Allison Blackwell plays the kind, unflappable, hard-working Hattie. Jonathan Butler-Dupleiss who plays Paul from the applause and hoots and hollers is an audience favorite and performs my favorite number “Too Darn Hot”. Johanna Mackenzie Miller also allows for more gender equity in casting Lillian Castillo as a gun woman who is both brash and engaging. Shea Coffman is her partner in comic crime. Together they perform a delightful rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. Terry Hamilton gives a commanding performance as the intimidating General Harrison Howell. This is a very talented veteran cast. Adding to our enjoyable experience is the colorful, lavish, period costume design by Theresa Ham, lighting by Jesse Klug, and innovative set design by Scott Davis.
The Marriott Theater has comfy cozy seating for 844 guests and ample free parking. The theater-in-the-round style allows for a very intimate setting. The actors on stage seem so close you almost feel a part of the production. Actors enter and exit the stage along the audience aisles keeping them very connected to us.
Currently, Marriott Theater guests are required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and or an appropriate negative COVID-19 test and mask-up during performances for everyone’s safety. Matinees are scheduled for Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Ticket prices are reasonable from $50.00- $60.00 excluding tax and handling fees. Please call the Marriott Box Office at (847) 634-0200 for Student, Senior, Military discounts and dinner theater packages. For further information contact Marriott online.
Photos: Courtesy of Heron Agency