Kiss Me Kate: Review Roundup

Hannah Waddingham
and Alex Bourne

The Chichester Festival Theatre revival of the 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate has received generally positive reviews for its West End transfer to the Old Vic. The creative team includes Bella & Sam Spewack (book), Cole Porter (music, lyrics), Trevor Nunn (director), Stephen Mear (choreography), Robert Jones (design), Gareth Valentine (music direction, Tim Mitchell (lights), Chris Egan (orchestrations), and Paul Groothuis (sound). The cast includes Alex Bourne (Fred Graham, Petruchio), David Burt (Gangster), Adam Garcia (Bill Calhoun, Lucentio), Jason Pennycooke (Paul), Clive Rowe (Gangster), Holly Dale Spencer (Lois Lane, Bianca), and Hannah Waddingham (Lilli Vanessi, Kate).

Lyn Gardner (Guardian): It would be nice to report that Trevor Nunn’s revival of the classic 1948 musical is too darn hot, but it arrives in London from the Chichester Festival in a lukewarm state. … Stephen Mear’s choreography and Jason Pennycooke’s snake-like hips suddenly scorch the stage, and make everyone else sizzle, too. Nunn’s revival is full-lunged with terrific vocal performances, particularly from Waddingham, but it often feels lumbering and effortful, technically impressive but lacking in joy and warmth. … The production finally sparks into life with the famous number “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” But for the most part, this three-hour evening simmers rather than boiling over.

Fiona Mountford (Standard): This new look at the Cole Porter showbiz-themed dazzler Kiss Me, Kate is the latest sassy offering. Having started on the south coast in the summer, it now sizzles into town. … Stephen Mear’s high-octane choreography, showcased in the set-piece for “Too Darn Hot,” leaves no room for brooding. Holly Dale Spencer as ditzy nightclub singer Lois excels in my favorite hymn to matrimonial equivocation, “Always True to You in My Fashion.” As the lovable hoodlums with a taste for the greasepaint, David Burt and Clive Rowe provide the evening’s showstopper with the delightful “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” milking two deserved encores. Highly kissable.

Stewart Pringle (Time Out): You have to wait a while for the real razzle-dazzle … but by the start of the second act the sheer talent on display will have swept you along. … There’s superb supporting work from David Burt and Clive Rowe, who wring every last laugh from “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” and particularly Jason Pennycooke, who leads a storming “Too Darn Hot.” … While giving the big numbers his all, Nunn has failed the script quite badly. A few moments of slapstick in the play-within-the-play come off well, but the framing narrative feels yawningly drab and laconic. Like a game of musical statues, when the band stops playing, this production freezes to the spot.

Charles Spencer (Telegraph): Cole Porter’s musical about a touring production of The Taming of the Shrew must have seemed like an appointment with destiny for Nunn. And boy, does he deliver. … Stephen Mear’s choreography bursts with wit and invention, especially during the spectacularly staged “Too Darn Hot,” which sees the impish hoofer Jason Pennycooke gliding across the stage. … And David Burt and Clive Rowe offer a deliciously deadpan double act as the mobsters who muscle their way into the show, finding every ounce of humor in the brilliant comic song “Brush Up Your Shakeaspeare.” … Frankly, nights at the theatre don’t often come more enjoyable than this.

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