A toe-tapping, knee-slapping performance
November 17, 2009
If you ever studied Shakespeare in high school, you probably remember that it can be a little, well, draining.
Even on stage, the dramaturgy can be difficult to follow. But add in a modern-day love triangle, a handful of musical numbers, a gambling problem and a couple of mafia-esque thugs, and a Shakespearian comedy suddenly becomes a lot more humorous.
That’s exactly what Cole Porter did in his award-winning Broadway production, "Kiss Me Kate." He borrowed Shakespeare’s "Taming of the Shrew," enveloped it in a 1950s love/hate debacle, and sprinkled in a dose of catchy solos, duets, and group songs.
This weekend, a group of Park City High School (PCHS) theatre buffs will perform their rendition of the musical on stage at the Eccles Center.
"Kiss Me Kate" revolves around the behind-the-scenes antics surrounding a Baltimore production of "Taming of the Shrew."
Fred Graham, the show’s director and male lead (played by senior John Dwyer), is juggling a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and co-star, Lilli Vanessi (played by junior Christina Baird), as well as his romantic interest in a young actress, Lois Lane (played by junior Katie Fischer).
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In between despising each other and trying to tolerate each other on stage, Fred and Lilli rekindle their love before opening night. However, the rekindling stems from a bouquet of flowers that Fred had intended for Lois but was mistakenly delivered to Lilli. She finds out mid-performance, and (being a bit of a shrew herself) throws an all-out tantrum on stage, threatening to shut down the show.
As if he doesn’t have enough problems, Fred is being trailed by a pair of gangsters determined to collect a $10,000 gambling debt. The thing is, Fred didn’t actually accrue the debt a fellow actor, Bill Calhoun (played by senior Gill Williams) signed Fred’s name to an IOU note.
As the characters strive to sort out their entangled issues, hilarity ensues. During the title song, Dwyer (as Petruchio in "Taming of the Shrew") demands a kiss from Baird (as Katharine, the shrew), to which she responds with a swift slap to the face.
The 28 PCHS cast members have spent about two-and-a-half months rehearsing. The production features music by members of the high school’s elite music ensembles as well as stage setup, audio and lighting by members of the stage tech class.
"They’ve really worked hard," said PCHS theatre teacher and director Nicole Madison. "Not only are they learning a play, but they’re learning a play within a play. They grow up through the process. It’s really cool."
The students have spent so much time together over the past couple months that they’re starting to feel like a family. "We’re all really good friends," said cast member Nicole Boyle. "You can definitely sense the relationship we have on stage." The students involved in the production are from grades 10 through 12 and have varying levels of acting experience.
The students said their favorite parts of being in the production are first and foremost being on stage, but also the cast bonding and learning new things about theatre. "Ms. Madison lets us teach ourselves," commented Jessica Hinrichas.
"Being on stage really builds up our self-esteem. We can really be ourselves,"
added Nicole Adrienne. "We’re expanding as performers and as people. This is only the start for acting or singing careers, and what we learn now is going to be dominant later."
Many of the cast members agreed that one of the most appealing things about "Kiss Me Kate" is that its applicable to many life situations. "I like how people can pull themselves into the story and relate to it," says Elizabeth Braden. "We pull real life emotion onto the stage."
Perhaps one of the thug characters (played by junior Devon Maddux) best sums up the performance: "It’s entertaining, vivacious and calculated to please the discerning theatre-goer. You can quote me."
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19-21, at the Eccles Center at Park City High School. Show times are 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.