Kiss Me, Kate is perhaps the quintessential musical. It is an exploration of human relationships and theatrical conventions with a sturdy comic structure and its characters use music as a vessel through which they can achieve greater expression. For this reason it is an especially tantalizing piece to put in concert; Porter’s extraordinary songs depend so heavily on the frame in which they are hung that they can never be fully appreciated without the characters that sing them to suit the situations they’re in. As a result, a concert version of this play maintains a clear story and rich, vital characters.
But without the right point of focus and mix of artists, this musical can have a hard time feeling. All too often productions work toward regressive ends, slipping into the storytelling tropes and gender stereotypes of 1948. With this production, and this company, we hope to prove that the classics of this genre are flexible enough to be done in a way that does not root them to the political norms of their time. This production works to demonstrate that not only is it possible to play against the period politics of older works, it can launch them forward creatively. And we feel a strong artistic responsibility not to leave pieces like Kiss Me, Kate for dead. What kind of a world would it be if all the positivity, love, delight and generosity that permeate this play’s notes and words should be abandoned because of its old-fashionedness? Without a Lilli who can be proud and vulnerable, who can entwine a beating heart with a palpable strength? A Fred who is able, incredibly, to break free from his love of self and through to his love of others? A pair of hit men who, over the course of just one evening, blossom into new aficionados of the theater (or is it theatre)? It seems much more valuable to rejuvenate Kiss Me, Kate than to decry or discard it.
So we are excited for the opportunity to share with you the delight that we discovered during this process, and renew your hope that there is still joy to be mined from stories like this. And, of course, give you a chance to brush up your Shakespeare.