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Prom 21: Kiss Me, Kate, John Wilson Orchestra | reviews, news & interviews

Prom 21: Kiss Me, Kate, John Wilson Orchestra

Prom 21: Kiss Me, Kate, John Wilson Orchestra

A meticulously planned, well staged and ambitiously resourced performance

From left to right: Louise Dearman as Lois Lane/Bianca, Tony Yazbeck as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, Alexandra Silber as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine, Ben Davis as Fred Graham/PetruchioAll images: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

“Another Op'nin', Another Show”. The first musical number of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate sets the scene for a group of actors and hoofers to brush up their Shakespeare, cross their fingers and hold on to their hearts, and to hope that not too much goes wrong with their show in late 1940s Baltimore.

This BBC Proms performance was anything but that kind of on-the hoof creation: it was meticulously planned, ambitiously resourced, staged and choreographed, with costume changes a-plenty.

The performance was given in a newly-restored critical edition of the original 1948 staged version, with the original orchestrations. Kiss Me, Kate does have its anachronisms: I can't imagine, for example, the charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA) ever organising an outing to go and see it. But it is above all a show which wins over an audience with its parade of fabulous, classic songs, from "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" to "Too Darn Hot" and "So in Love". This performance had the feel of a special occasion, and a fizzing energy about it, a one-off performance which had been in rehearsal for about ten days. People around me were swaying with the rhythm of many of the songs.

Kiss Me Kate at the PromsThe show had a strong cast, with impressive Americans in three of the leading roles. The highly experienced Ben Davis was the complete package in the central role of Fred Graham/Petruchio, rapidly rising star Alexandra Silber gave conviction and real presence to the role of Lilly Vanessi/ Katherine (the two pictured together above), and Tony Yazbeck was strong in the smaller role of Bill Calhoun/ Lucentio. Among the Brits, Louise Dearman deserved the huge applause she received for "Always True to You In My Fashion”, Jason Pennycooke was a memorable singing-dancing Paul, and Gary Watson shone in the minor role of Hortensio.

Kiss Me, Kate was well directed by Shaun Kerrison and imaginatively choreographed by Alastair David. One fine moment among many in the dancing was the massed brow-mopping and unanimous whole-cast collapse to the floor at the end of "Too Darned Hot". The costume design wasn't credited in the programme, but the arrival of some lithe dancers in black-and-white jester tights for the tarantella definitely received the approval of my companion, and the entry of the two excellent gangsters in their “Shrew” costumes received massive applause from a packed Royal Albert Hall.

John Wilson conducting Kiss Me, KateThe John Wilson Orchestra (Wilson last night, pictured left) has its heroes too. The crispness and vigour of Matt Skelton's perfromance at the drum kit underpinning the show are a constant miracle, Howard McGill took his clarinet breaks with panache, Andy Wood's trombone tone is something special, and every one of leader Andrew Haveron's violin solos had style and class.

Kiss Me, Kate worked well in the Royal Albert Hall, with only the very occasional glitch with the actors' individual radio mics, and is bound to come across even better in the version in which most people will see it when it is broadcast on TV – and presumably released commercially - from December.

This was a performance which lasted just over three hours including interval, but as all those involved brought across the copious variety and the vivid quick-fire imagination behind this work, as they gave it the momentum and the sheer class to make it seem much shorter, they thorougly deserved the rousing ovations which greeted them at the end.

All those involved brought across the copious variety and the vivid quick-fire imagination behind this work


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Really looking forward to seeing this on tv, my hubby played the thick gangster in 1989. I will never forget his droopy tights. Fab show!

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