Welsh National Opera’s
Kiss Me Kate
The Bristol Hippodrome
Tuesday 11th – Saturday 15th October 2016
Three productions inspired by William Shakespeare make up Welsh National Opera’s Autumn season which comprises the British premiere of André Tchaikovsky’s The Merchant of Venice and a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth. The season is completed with Cole Porter’s classic musical Kiss Me, Kate in a co-production with Opera North which pays homage to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
The season is part of the official Shakespeare 400 celebrations to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the great bard’s death whilst continuing WNO Artistic Director David Pountney’s creative approach to themed seasons.
Leading lady and superstar Lilli Vanessi is the ex-wife of Taming of the Shrew’s charming leading man, Fred Graham. Fred has a fondness for flirtatious fresh-faced Lois Lane and Lilli is jealous of his interest in her.
Meanwhile, Lois’ boyfriend Bill gets himself into debt and signs an IOU under Fred’s name which leads to hairy encounters with a pair of foolhardy gangsters.
Lilli admits she still loves Fred but after they argue, she threatens to leave the show. Fred forces Lilli to stay by getting the gangsters on side, telling them that if she leaves the show, he won’t be able to pay them back.
Will both couples find their way through this chaos to find happiness in the end?
KISS ME KATE REVIEW
There’s something special about taking your seat at the theatre amidst the hubbub of audience chatter and the discordant strains of the orchestra tuning their instruments just in front of you. For a moment I forget that I’m not sitting down to enjoy an opera because, despite being a Welsh National Opera performance, Kiss me Kate is actually a musical.
I’m new to Kiss Me Kate, the musical and it takes me a while to warm up to it. Initially I’m struggling to work out how the story synopsis relates to Taming of the Shrew and from the moment I read the synopsis, right through to part way through the first act, I’m trying to work out which characters to shoehorn into Katharine and Petruchio’s roles. Suddenly I have my ‘aha’ moment and from then on, am impressed by how cleverly the stories are intertwined, unfolding on and off-stage. I enjoy the dialogue and hope that one of the tiers of this show might allow for a more modern and satisfying twist to Katherine’s eventual subservience, but do I get it? I’ll leave that for you to find out!
This is a Welsh National Opera production, so of course everything is sung beautifully but there are a few surprises too. Popular tunes including ‘Too Darn Hot’ and ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ are crowd pleasers while spectacular costumes and impressive choreography make it a visual treat. Dancing sequences are energetic and I’m surprised to find myself enjoying the tap dancing so much!
I don’t have any children with me but I don’t notice anything particularly inappropriate. I hadn’t expected it to be suitable for them but I think the boys might enjoy some parts, especially the slapstick, farcical pin stripe suited gangsters! They would also enjoy the significant amount of dialogue which makes the story easy to follow. Having said that, essentially this is an adult love/hate story so I wouldn’t rush back to take children along.
The show is really not what I’d expected! I knew beforehand that, despite being a Welsh National Opera performance, it’s not actually an opera but a musical. I find the beginning quite hard going but after my lightbulb moment I begin to realise how well this classic Shakespearean love story has been combined with the drama backstage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the ‘story within a story’ is so cleverly affected by the main story!
Leads Jeni Bern and Quirijn de Lang not only have beautiful voices but they’re a great comedy couple too and the whole combination of operatic and West End singers alongside the WNO’s own Chorus and Orchestra works seamlessly together.
CAST AND CREDITS
The cast is led by Jeni Bern as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine and Quirijn de Lang as her ex-husband Fred Graham/Petruchio, both of whom starred in this production in 2015 at Opera North.
Jo Davies directs Kiss Me Kate, having directed the production at Opera North.
James Holmes and Gareth Jones conduct.
David Pountney is WNO Artistic Director .
Kiss Me Kate
WNO’s Autumn season opened at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, before a UK tour which takes in the following:-
- The Bristol Hippodrome
13 Oct – 15 Oct
- Venue Cymru, Llandudno
24 Nov – 26 Nov
- Birmingham Hippodrome
10 Nov – 12 Nov
- Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
29 Sep – 10 Dec
- New Theatre Oxford
27 Oct – 29 Oct
- Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
3 Nov – 5 Nov
- Liverpool Empire Theatre
5 Oct – 7 Oct
Click here for information on booking this show.
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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN. POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS