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Blakemore's Broadway Kate Opens at Victoria

By • West End
Michael Blakemore's award-winning revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate opens in the West End tonight, following previews from 16 October 2001. The much-anticipated production of Porter’s classic musical comedy was a hit on Broadway where it has scooped myriad awards and where it continues to run. The London production, currently booking at the Victoria Palace Theatre up to February 2002, combines that impressive Broadway pedigree with four all-star American principals, backed by a home-grown ensemble.

Of the four leads, Marin Mazzie, Michael Berresse and Nancy Anderson are all Kiss Me Kate veterans. Mazzie, who plays Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, created the role in Blakemore’s production, for which she won the Outer Critics' Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. She has also had starring roles in other Broadway musicals such as Ragtime, Passion and Into the Woods. Berresse also created his role of Bill Calhoun/Lucentio in the production while his other Broadway credits include Chicago, Damn Yankees and Guys and Dolls. Anderson, who will play Lois Lane/Bianca, also played the same role in the States. Her other US productions include Crazy for You, The Secret Garden and Sweeney Todd.

The fourth principal, Brent Barrett, has not yet appeared previously in Kiss Me Kate, but he is regarded as one of Broadway's brightest stars, with lead roles there recently in Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun and Grand Hotel. He has also performed as a soloist under Simon Rattle's direction and has numerous recordings to his credit.

Kiss Me Kate opened in November 1999 at New York's Martin Beck Theatre. In addition to rave reviews, the show has won five Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and four Outer Critics' Circle Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical in all three. British director Michael Blakemore won both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Musical.

Originally staged in 1948, the 20th century "battle of the sexes" version of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Sam and Bella Spewack, is one of Broadway's best loved musicals. A play-within-a-play, it follows behind the scenes as arrogant actor-producer Fred Graham and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi battle and flirt their way through a performance of Shakespeare's classic. The famous score includes "Another Op'nin' Another Show", "Too Darn Hot", "Always True to You (in my Fashion)", "We Open in Venice" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".

Kiss Me Kate was recreated for the screen in 1953, with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in the leads. The last major London production was mounted in 1997 at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park.

The entire Broadway creative team has worked on the London production. Scenic design is by Robin Wagner, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound by Tony Meola, orchestrations by Don Sebesky and dance arrangements by David Chase. The musical direction is by Paul Gemignani and choreography by Kathleen Marshall. The London production of Kiss Me Kate is presented by its Broadway producers, Roger Berlind and Roger Horchow, with Nica Burns as associate producer.

- by Terri Paddock


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