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Kiss Me Kate at Point Park Conservatory

It’s musical theater done to perfection



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.

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