West End meets opera in this wildly entertaining take on Kiss Me, Kate by our very own Opera North.
Back to back hits, incredible dance numbers and big time belly laughs await at Opera North’s reprisal of Kiss Me, Kate. If you’ve heard of it, you’ll know this, but for those of you who haven’t seen it before, this is actually a musical. It’s the closest Cole Porter ever got to making an opera, so the mix of opera singers and West End stars is incredibly effective.
The result is a production that not only hits all the high notes, but has plenty of them itself. From Zoëy Rainey’s saucy rendition of ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’ to Alan Burkitt’s mesmerising dance solo, which let me tell you, made the ladies swoon – they jump from one toe-tapping, smile-inducing number to the next, and you’re right there with ‘em.
But perhaps I get ahead of myself. You want to know what it’s about, right? And I’m inclined to give you spoilers because I need to give you a run-through to do the absolute madness of the plot justice.
Kiss Me, Kate is a play within a play. Our spritely team of performers are putting on their own production of the Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – at least they’re trying too. But Fred brought on his ex-wife to star beside him as the leading lady, and while they may be divorced, it’s becoming abundantly clear that they’re still in love.
Mind you, that doesn’t stop Fred from putting the moves on Lois Lane, who’s hopelessly, but not faithfully, in love with gambling addict Bill Calhoun. And he, in turn, has stitched up her would-be suitor by signing an IOU to a mob boss in his name. Cue a motley crew of gangsters with their own comedy schtick, a livid ex-wife who threatens to leave the show and more than a little on-stage violence.
Kiss Me, Kate has more twists and turns than a pretzel, but in between the story, there are these show-stopping numbers from the wider cast. Stephane Anelli leads the pack in ‘It’s Too Darn Hot’, but this is a real group effort – the stage is packed to the rafters, sometimes you don’t even know where to look because there’s so much going on, but that’s where the magic of this production lies. There’s never a dull moment as you’re catapulted from one mind-blowing moment to the next.
I sound like I’m gushing, don’t I? But credit where credit’s due. Speaking of which, the sets are simply sublime. They take you from spotlight to the often unseen ‘backstage’ of the theatre – it’s amazing just how many different scenes they’ve created, especially considering that the transitions are seamless. And the action doesn’t just take place on stage, performers pop-up all around you, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing a box with a couple of gangsters.
Quirijn de Lang and Stephanie Corley did a sterling job in the lead roles. They both have strong operatic voices that blow your socks off and I genuinely wanted them to get together, despite the drama. But for me, it was West End star Zoëy Rainey who stole the show. Naughty, lighthearted and absolutely mesmerising, we were all very glad she kept coming back for more in ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’ and she had us in fits with ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ – innuendos aplenty.
This is one of the most entertaining shows I’ve seen this year. I’m going to have those songs stuck in my head for a very long time, and if I’m completely honest with you, I’d go back and see it tomorrow if I could. But it’s only in town until Saturday, so if you want to find out what all the fuss is about, you’d better be quick.
Kiss Me, Kate is playing at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 27th May 2018 – and you can get tickets with an exclusive G&T for just £25.