The University Theatre opens its 2013-2014 season with the staging of the seminal Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate on Stage Too! in Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith. Performances run July 12-13 and 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and July 14 and 21 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets for Kiss Me, Kate are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Kiss Me, Kate tickets are $15 for the public, $14 KU staff and senior citizens, and $10 for students and children 5-18.
Kiss Me, Kate is not just another show “op’nin’” at the University Theatre; it is a musical comedy with wit, style, humor, and exuberance. This cleverly crafted production, with unforgettable music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Sam and Bella Spewack, took home five Tony Awards, including the very first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. The original production of Kiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre on December 30, 1948 and ran for 1,077 performances. Featuring 18 classic Cole Porter songs — including “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” — Kiss Me, Kate is the epitome of Broadway musical comedy at its unequivocal best.
Kiss Me, Kate’s sophisticated humor charms audiences by adapting Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew to the musical stage for an all-out battle of the sexes. When Fred Graham (Stephen Dagrosa, Hadden Heights, N.J. masters graduate), the show’s director, producer and star sparks on and off-stage conflict with this ex-wife and leading lady Lilli Vanessi (Julia Geisler, Wexford, Pa. masters student), chaos ensues as characters sing, dance and fall in love in verse. Throw in another pair of feuding lovers, unpredictably erudite mobsters and a U.S. Army general and the stage is set for a night of witty musical comedy.
This University Theatre “Revisionist” or “Jewel Box” production includes an ensemble of 11 performers playing more than 25 roles. Kiss Me, Kate is directed and choreographed by John Staniunas, professor of theatre, with music direction by Ryan McCall, University Theatre accompanist. Rebecca Damren, Atlanta M.F.A. student, is assistant directing and stage managing the production. Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, is the scenic and lighting designer and Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre, is the costume designer.
After the success of last summer’s My Fair Lady, Director John Staniunas said he wanted to continue the concept of stripping large-musicals down to a minimalist cast in order to provide a fresh experience for audiences.
“Kiss Me, Kate is one of the most successful musical adaptations of Shakespeare because it truly does take place in the theatre,” Staniunas said. “This is a play within a play, so the amount of complexity and layers the entire small ensemble has to bring to the stage is not only transformative for our patrons, but necessary for successful storytelling.”
Staniunas hopes audiences find a new appreciation for the versatility of the theatre as an art form—Kiss Me, Kate features all new staging and choreography for Stage Too!, including mask work, tap dance, and a rotating stage. For Staniunas, reimagining the musical brings modernity to a classic piece whose underlining tones “speak volumes about gender conflict and a female identity crisis” prevalent in America after the end of World War II.
“We can tell this iconic story of the struggle between man versus woman in a way no other form of entertainment can.” Staniunas said. “You don’t have to do an older musical the same way every single time. In this day and age you have to keep it contemporary and present. That’s the only way to keep the theatre alive.”
Additional cast members include Rachel Tolbert, Topeka sophomore, as Lois/Bianca; Luke Reddig, Clive Iowa junior, as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio; Brian Duerksen, Wichita recent masters graduate as General Pops/Innkeeper/General Howell; Troy Clifford Dargin, Lawrence doctoral student, as Ralph/Hortensio/Haberdasher; Michael Colman, Charelston, S.C. masters student, as Paul/Gremio/Phillip; Elaina Smith, Olathe senior, as Harriet/Baptista; Lily Lancaster, Lawrence sophomore, as Gangester Moll; Thomas Tong, Olathe junior, as Gangster/Cab Driver and Carissa Scroggins, Rapid City, S.D. masters student, as Hattie/Innkeeper/Gregory.
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