Pinn Worth Productions has breathed new life into a classic musical comedy with its exuberant production of KISS ME, KATE at The Kelsey Theatre.
KISS ME, KATE originally premiered on Broadway in December 1948. A musical-within-a-musical set in Baltimore, it tells the tale of Frederic Graham (Tom Orr) and Lilly Vanessi (Susan Fowler). Ex-spouses and actors, Frederic and Lilly find themselves rediscovering what they loved about each other during a musical production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, in which they play Katherine and Petruchio (Frederic is also the director of the production). Complicating matters are Lilly’s current fiancé, General Harrison Howell (Nicholas Pecht), and a pair of mobsters (Chris Arena, Roman Sohor), who mistakenly believe Frederic owes a gambling debt.
Along the way, we encounter SHREW cast members and young lovers Lois (Rachel Smith) and Bill (Jonathan V. Polanco), who have issues of their own to resolve.
Director Lou J. Stalsworth has assembled an outstanding, high-energy ensemble, with the cast giving it their all as they act, dance and sing their way through the show. Peter DeMets’s musical direction, as well as his orchestra, is extraordinary. Renee Liciaga’s choreography is delightful, and costume and set design, both led by Kate Pinner, are spot-on. Kudos, too, are due to the lighting and sound designers, Robert Terrano, Eric Collins and Evan Paine.
While all the performances are noteworthy, standouts include Orr, whose vocal chops were on masterful display throughout the show, and Smith, whose coy performance of “Always True to You in My Fashion” was a delight. Arena and Sohor, as the mob thugs nonplussed to find themselves members of the SHREW ensemble, provided wonderful comic relief. Their rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” was hugely enjoyable.
Also worthy of mention are the opening numbers of both acts. “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” led by powerful vocalist Tonya Treadwell, set the stage for an exciting night at the theater. Reginald Brockington shone in his rendition of “Too Darn Hot,” opening the second act with a number evocative of tropical heat and its effects on sensuality – both positive and negative.
The Kelsey Theatre, located on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ, is a terrific venue, hosting several area theater companies. It lends itself beautifully to this production.
KISS ME, KATE
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack
Directed by Lou J. Stalsworth
September 12 – 21, 2014
Pinn Worth Productions
The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NY 08550