REVIEW: KISS ME, KATE

at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

by Michael Mulhern

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse proudly presents Cole Porter’s classic KISS ME, KATE now through April 15th in Johnstown, CO. Kiss Me, Kate follows the travails of a touring company desperately attempting to perform Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew while contending with the feuding between its male and female stars – with a few gun-toting gangsters thrown in for good measure.

This is probably my favorite Cole Porter musical and it is for that reason (and the talent in the cast) that I was compelled to make the drive to Johnstown. This classic show is a fun chaotic romp with some of Porter’s most beloved songs! I have to reiterate this – So in Love with this Musical, am I!!!

The best way to describe Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is “Unexpected Elegance in a Rustic Corner of Colorado!” I had forgotten just how massive this space was and the sheer magnitude of the theater is impressive in and amongst itself. While their soup of the day (smoked pork chili) was absolutely delicious, their entrees were somewhat generic and lacking creativity and flavor.

Sarah Grover as Hattie certainly started the show right with her vibrant voice and energy in Another Opening, Another Show and it left the audience wanting more after the opening number. Unfortunately the best way to describe this particular production of Kiss Me, Kate was “Inconsistent’. From the food to the comedic performances; and from the energy of the cast to the choreography – there was a certain incongruity that kept pulling me out of the experience and making the show lag.

Scott Hurst is quite charmingly dramatic as the egotistical lethagio, Fred Graham and Petruchio. While I felt that he could have had more of an ego in the beginning (the bigger the ego, the harder the fall), he won me over with his passionate rendition of So In Love. Heather McClain was fabulous as his ex-wife Lilli and diva star Kate. Her voice was bright and delightful, and she brought down the house with I Hate Men.

The charismatic Bob Hoppe brought much needed tap and energy to the show as the gambling-addicted Bill and was wonderful to watch. I had mixed feelings about Lisa Kay Carter’s performance as the flirtatious Lois/Bianca and it all had to do with her accent. Lisa was born to play a scene-stealer and she was a perfect fit as the flirtatious, ditzy Lois/Bianca. But her overly over-enunciation of her vowels made her very hard to understand and thus she lost a lot of laughs. Even with the difficult diction, she captivated everyone with her adorable glee and especially with her showstopper Always True to You In My Fashion. I was captivated by her and Bob Hoppe’s fierce tapping. Brian Murray and Eli Stewart was so much fun at the gangsters and the audience loved them. Brush Up on Your Shakespeare should have brought down the house, but the muddied articulation made the song difficult to understand and a lot of the comedic Shakespearean references were lost.

Director Robert Michael Sanders and Music Director Victor Walters were solid in their interpretation of this over the top show and their casting was spot on. The showed flowed from the chaos on and off the set effortlessly; and the shoe shopping numbers were great. I would have live to have seen a little more infusion of Monty Python or the 3 Stooges repetition and physical comedy that make their skits oh so memorable and hilarious.

Aaron Sheckler did an awesome job with the set design both on and off the stage and from Verona, to minimal backstage to the dressing rooms, he featured some great variety. Costume Designer Deb Faber did a fantastic job highlighting the everyday look and the Shakespearean costumes for the over the top performances.

While there were a couple moments of dance during the show that I found appealing, I did not care for Kate Vallee’s choreography. There were several strong dancers in the company, but the choreography felt a little clunky. What this show and the audience were begging for was a big tap number (which was even more disappointing to me knowing she choreographed last season’s 42nd Street, the ultimate TAP musical). I have always seen Too Darn Hot as a highlighted toe tapping number, but her infusion of Fosse and do many other dance styles made this number so unique.

Even with these ups and downs, those showstopping numbers really did bring the energy back up and stole the show much to the delight of the audience. It has been a couple years since I have attended a show at Candlelight and I am so happy I made the venture up north again!

Fall in Love with KISS ME, KATE at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse! Performances are Thursday, Friday & Saturday Evenings — Dinner seating at 6:00 PM; Show at 7:30 PM

Saturday Matinees – Dinner seating at 12 noon, show at 1:30 PM

Sunday Matinees -‐ Dinner seating at 12:30 PM; Show at 2:00 PM

For more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit www.ColoradoCandlelight.com,

or call the Box Office at 970-744-3747. Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is located at 4747 Marketplace Drive in Johnstown, CO. (I‐25 at Exit 254).

 

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