NCC starts off with musical ‘Kiss Me, Kate’
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media November 1, 2012 11:24AM
From left, actors Bradley Morrison, Grace Heimerl, Max DeTogne and Kyle Ryan rehearse a scene from “Kiss Me, Kate.” | Courtesy of North Central College
‘Kiss Me, Kate’
♦ Nov. 8-11
♦ North Central College Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville
♦ Tickets, $10-$15
♦ (630) 637-7469
Updated: November 1, 2012 11:24AM
There will be a double dose of Shakespeare this season at North Central College, beginning with a student production of Cole Porter’s Tony Award-winning musical “Kiss Me, Kate” Nov. 8 to 11.
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 to 11 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 10 and 11 in North Central’s Pfeiffer Hall.
Featuring music and lyrics by Cole Porter, with book by Sam and Bella Spewack, this classic musical-within-a-musical of the Golden Age of American musical theater has charmed audiences for more than six decades.
It follows the troubled relationship of film star Lilli Vanessi as she returns to Broadway opposite her former husband-director, producer and actor Fred Graham. Despite their bickering, it’s clear they still have feelings for each other.
Meanwhile, Bill Calhoun, who is playing Shakespeare, has a gambling problem and his time is up.
“Kiss Me, Kate” is directed and choreographed by Brian Lynch, North Central College’s fine arts director, with musical direction by Jeordano Martinez, professor of music.
He picked out the play last March, after consulting with his colleague Karin Silkaitis, chairwoman of the theater department.
“I asked what she was doing and she said, ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ I said, ‘It’s settled, then. I’m doing ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ since ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ is the musical version of ‘Taming of the Shrew,’” he said. “We had always talked about doing something where it’s the same show in the same year, like ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the same year. The fun thing is too, she is going to be doing a very different version of ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ So we’re going to have two different takes on Shakespeare this year.”
Lynch is doing the original version, instead of the revival, which added some extra songs and changed one of the characters a bit, he said.
“Pete Martinez and I both preferred the original because of the lush orchestrations. It has the classical strings sound to it instead of the more contemporary pit,” he said.
The production will feature a full orchestra of student musicians as well, he said.
“It’s a great collaborative effort,” he said.
The show has a lot of teaching opportunities; for example, helping the cast to come to grips with Kate’s final song, “I’m Ashamed Women Are So Simple,” he said.
“Because scholars for eons have been discussing that final monologue Katherine has in ‘Taming of the Shrew,’” he said. “’Women Are So Simple’ is the encapsulated version of that monologue. So we have been working with the actresses in the cast to make sense of that song — why does she suddenly change? It’s been interesting.”
The lesson that he is hoping to impart to the young women is that Kate doesn’t have to fight to win the battle; she’s going win anyway, because of her femininity, not in spite of it, he said.
“I double-cast Kate, and there was a glint in their eyes when I told them that,” he said. “She wins because she is in control.”
Part of the history lesson includes the importance of Cole Porter’s songs, he said.
“The songs were more important than the story. You could take any Cole Porter song and plug them into any show and they would still work, except ‘Kiss Me, Kate.’ In ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ the songs are specific for the situation,” Lynch said. “In a way, this was Cole Porter’s tour de force, by his commentary on the traditional musical.”
Porter contemporizes the musical version of “Taming of the Shrew” by having songs that are not in the period of the show, he said.
“‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’ is suddenly late ‘40s scat-bebop. That does not belong in the period ‘Shrew’ would have happened. It’s that bending of the reality of the two different worlds, having the contemporary fun of the musical while trying to do ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ It’s been very interesting, working with the cast on this one. There’s a lot more to the show than anybody thinks at first.”
The cast has been doing fabulous with the material, he said.
“When I started here, you would possibly pick a show because that’s how many people you had to do the show,” he said. “The program has grown so much that there’s no musical we can’t do, there’s no play we can’t do, because we know we have the actors to perform it and we have many people to sing the parts. It’s terrific for the directors because we can cast the role multiple times over.”
The cast of “Kiss Me, Kate” includes Brad Morrison as Fred Graham; Bryan Renaud as Harry Trevor; Emma van Ommeren and Emila Benassi as Lois Lane; Heidi Buyck and Grace Heimerl as Lilli Vanessi; Chelsea Ward as Hattie; and Brett Bush as Bill Calhoun. Kyle Ryan, who is pictured, is no longer in the show.