When Kiss Me, Kate opens March 14 at Studio 54, the revival from Roundabout Theatre Company will have all of the pizzazz, showstopping choreography, old-time musical comedy verve audiences who love the Cole Porter-Bella Spewack-Sam Spewack show have come to expect.
The story is a show-within-a-show romp about divorced co-stars Lilli Vanessi (Kelli O’Hara) and Fred Graham (Will Chase), the latter of which is also the producer, director, and creator of a new musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Graham, who plays Petruchio in Shrew, has cast his ex-wife as Katharine, his new romance Lois (Stephanie Styles) as her fair sister Bianca, and Lois’ love Bill (Corbin Bleu) as suitor Lucentio. A backstage, door-slamming comedy, things get complicated onstage and off when jealousies and gangsters arrive on the scene.
“The Golden Age musicals... there's such a magic to them. There's a reason why these shows have lasted so long,” says Bleu. Still, writer Amanda Green joined the creative team for this mounting to make updates to the libretto for a 2019 audience. The changes are minor—sometimes a single word that only the most stringent of fans (and those who performed the musical growing up) will notice—but impactful.
The changes render the show one any leading lady (Kelli O’Hara, in this instance) would be eager to tackle without reservation. “I remember seeing Marin [Mazzie] in this and thinking, 'This is a soprano role, and listen to her shining! I hope I get to do it someday because you don't get that many opportunities,'” O’Hara says.
The brassy score from Porter features tunes like “Another Op’nin’ Another Show” and “Too Darn Hot,” and choreographer Warren Carlyle works his dancers to electrifying effect. “That's what I hang on, really, is the music,” he says. “When the music is that good I have a duty to do good work.”
“I had to pick my jaw up on the floor, these angels, these voices come out of everybody,” says John Pankow, the long-time stage actor making his Broadway musical debut as the First Man. “It was miraculous.”
Watch the video above to hear more from the cast and see highlights from the production below. Tune in to Playbill’s Facebook Live from the Red Carpet March 14 at approximately 10PM to hear from the cast and creative team moments after their performance.