“The show must go on.”
That’s the first rule of any theater production, and in the classic musical “Kiss Me, Kate,” it’s also the plot. Opening last week at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining in Jacksonville, Cole Porter’s Broadway hit gives the audience a taste of what it’s like to be on the other side of the curtain.
Set in the late 1940s, the show centers on a theater company’s musical production of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and how the actors’ off-stage lives mimic those of their onstage characters. When leading lady and movie starlet Lilli Vanessi finds herself starring opposite arrogant director and producer Fred Graham, who also happens to be her ex-husband, as one might expect, drama ensues. But, as the two passionately bicker their way through an opening night full of twists and turns, they eventually come to find a true appreciation for not only their Shakespearean counterparts, but also each other.
With book by Bella and Sam Spewack and music and lyrics by Cole Porter, “Kiss Me, Kate” was the first show to ever be presented with a Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. Adapted to film in 1953, the stage show boasts more than 1,000 Broadway performances and is set to be revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company for yet another run in March of 2019.
The Alhambra production of “Kiss Me, Kate” features catchy tunes, mesmerizing choreography and a highly talented cast. Joshua McKinney and Joey Swift, for instance, were hilarious as the two gangsters with an affinity for Shakespeare, and the entire ensemble did a fantastic job with the complex choreography of the iconic number, “Too Darn Hot.”
Christopher Sanders, who starred in the dinner theater’s 2016 production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” simply wows in his return to the Alhambra stage. Perfectly cast in the lead role of Fred Graham, his commanding stage presence and jaw-dropping vocals are truly spectacular, and when paired with Traci Blair’s Lilli Vanessi, the chemistry between the two is clear.
One other performance of note was that of Lauren Robinson in the role of the young and beautiful Lois Lane. Another vocal powerhouse, Robinson’s rendition of “Always True to You in My Fashion” left the audience whooping for more.
“Brush up Your Shakespeare” and go see “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining before the show closes its run on Sept. 9.