Dated but delightful

Rating: 4

Kiss Me, Kate

by Richard Barber

Based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew,Colee Porter’s musical (book by Bella and Samuel Spewack) will strike contemporary audiences – as will the Bard’s original – as something of a dinosaur when it comes to the battle of the sexes.

Headstrong Kate refuses to kowtow to silver-tongued Petruchio but, after much argy bargy, is eventually brought in to line following a good spanking. Hmm, try telling that to the #MeToo generation.

The conceit of the piece is a second-rate production of Shrew, the main thrust of which is mirrored behind the scenes with Fred/Petruchio locked in romantic combat with Lilli/Kate, his wandering eye taking in soubrette Lois Lane/Bianca who only has eyes for Bill Calhoun/Lucentio. Subtle, it ain’t, with many of the jokes in urgent need of a good spring clean (or a thick red pencil). But – and it’s a big one – there’s that glorious score and some fine singing in this lavish opera north production with an orchestra of 50+ under James Holmes’s baton producing a consistently lush sound.

And the hits just keep on coming. From the lively Another Op’nin’, Another Show through Wunderbar (I defy you not to sing along with that one) and the title song, you won’t have to wait long for the next toe-tapping tune.

Then there are the comedy numbers with Porter’s timeless, clever lyrics. two of the best fall to Bianca, with Tom, Dick or Harry (she’s keenest, ahem, on Dick) and Always True to You in My Fashion. Zoë Rainey, in my favourite turn of the evening, extracts the last drop of humour from each, and with the latter single-handedly and effortlessly commands the cavernous, deserted coliseum stage. She’s matched by her beau, Bill, in Alan Burkitt’s spring-heeled performance of the song, Bianca, complete with a nifty tap- dancing routine.

Stephanie Corley as Kate has her comic moments, too, and nowhere more so than in the pointed I Hate Men, but she can tackle anything with that glorious voice, Wunderbar being a stand-out example. As Petruchio, Dutch singer Quirijn de Lang wraps his fine tenor voice around everything that comes his way, so in love a particular gem. A quick shout-out, too, for the two comic hitmen (Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin) whose Brush up Your Shakespeare is a high point of the evening. And then there’s stephane Anelli’s show-stopping Too Darn Hot.

My best advice? Park your prejudices at the door and let this old-fashioned vehicle transport you to a simpler, if somewhat blinkered, age of classic musicals.

Until 30 June at the London Coliseum: 020-7845 9300, www.londoncoliseum.org; then at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, from 4-7 July: 0131-529 6000, www.capitaltheatres.com/festival

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