Kiss Me Kate at the Open Air Theatre (Regent's Park)
We could not have asked for a more beautiful evening - the moon was bright, the weather warm and balmy. With the help of some fairy lights, the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park was transformed into a magical venue. An enjoyable evening was virtually guaranteed in such conditions. Add to the mix a superbly fun-filled production of a Cole Porter classic, and there was no room for error.
Kiss Me Kate tells the backstage story of an opening night of Shakespeare's musically re-jigged Taming of the Shrew. The stars of the play within a play - Fred Graham/Petruchio (Andrew C. Wadsworth) and Lilli Vanessi/Katharine (Louise Gold) - are former husband and wife who, rather than admitting that they are still in love with one another, bicker constantly. The action is further fuelled by a pair of lovable mobsters who believe that Fred owes their boss $10,000 and are determined that the ill-fated show 'must go on' so that they can reclaim the money.
The entire cast turn in a very lively and entertaining performance. Wadsworth and John Griffiths' Harry Trevor/ Baptista are amiably mischievous but loyal counterparts to their leading ladies. Gold is a suitably icy and formidable Lilli. And Issy van Randwyck's Lois Lane, a sexy chorus girl who gets her big break, is more wonderfully wiggly than a worm heading for the core of the apple.
But the real stars of the show are Cole Porter's lyrics, still wonderfully fresh after nearly half a century. They inspire throw-your-head-back laughter as you tap along to the snappy tunes - and wonder how on earth Porter got away with such sexually suggestive lines in 1948. A number of hilarious numbers - 'I ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua', 'I Hate Men', 'Where is the Life that Late I Led' and most notably, the good-hearted goons crooning 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' - leave you chuckling long after leaving the theatre.
This night of Kiss Me Kate displayed both Porter and open-air theatre at its finest . Of course, beautiful weather is not always guaranteed. The night before the cast were washed out in the first act - despite many valiant efforts to continue. No matter what the weather, however, the spirit of this cast and this production seems impossible to dampen.
Terri Paddock, July 1997