If you’re interested in knowing what theater looks like when it’s done to perfection, I’d suggest Point Park Conservatory’s production of Kiss Me Kate, where director/choreographer Zeva Barzell and a sublime cast and crew are giving a musical-comedy master class.
Kiss Me Kate tells the story of one-time spouses Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi staging a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Their off-stage battles echo the onstage Petruchio and Kate and, in the way of these things, it all ends in a comic mess with everybody in love forever.
This 1948 landmark featured a book by Sam and Bella Spewack with a score by Cole Porter that has gone down as one of the greatest ever composed. Point Park stages the 1999 B’way-revival version, featuring a spruced-up script by John Guare and new orchestrations from Don Sebesky.
Musical director Camille Rolla leads a powerhouse of a pit band through these songs, driving home Porter’s incredible gift for melody. Johnmichael Bohach has created a glorious set design lit with lots of pizzazz by Andrew David Ostrowski. And Cathleen Crocker-Perry’s costumes bring a wealth of color and fun.
Perhaps Barzell’s greatest achievement is forging a pitch-perfect 1950s performing style from these students … and certainly Jeremy Spoljarick and Katie Weinstein, playing Fred and Lilli, are the embodiment of good old-fashioned musical comedy know-how. As they unfurl unbelievable voices — his swoony, hers crystalline — it’s hard to imagine how these two kids weren’t musical comedy stars in the ’50s. Hallie Lucille, as Lois, is the quintessential triple threat — singer, dancer, actor — and knocks her numbers out of the park. Kurt Kemper is the epitome of song-and-dance man. And singing “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” Kevin Gilmond and Beau Bradshaw do precisely what that spot is meant to do — stop the show cold.
I could go on about this entire cast and the joy they’ve placed front and center on the Playhouse stage, but let me quote an odd warning in the program: “Please note this show will have loud noise.” They must mean the audience screaming their heads off at the end.