Home » London Theatre Reviews » Kiss Me Kate at The Curve Theatre Leicester | Review

Kiss Me Kate at The Curve Theatre Leicester | Review

There are, in fact, three certainties in this world – death, taxes, and the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) not doing things by halves. The studio space at Curve is incredibly busy as soon as this production of Kiss Me, Kate begins, with forty-four cast members, plus twenty-seven musicians (who the audience eventually catches sight of at curtain call), all at full throttle. It’s almost a blessed relief when the narrative demands there are fewer people on stage, though I must admit, on balance, it’s the big ensemble numbers that are the most enjoyable.

Kiss Me Kate: Sydney Richards (Lilli Vanessi). Photo Tom Wren.
Kiss Me Kate: Sydney Richards (Lilli Vanessi). Photo Tom Wren.

The show itself is something of a paradox, being plot heavy – there’s a show within the show, which just happens to be The Taming of the Shrew – and it also features song and dance numbers that go on for several minutes without advancing the plot. Throw in at least one Gilbert and Sullivan-style patter song, some witty lyrics about (more or less) the Bard’s entire canon in the form of ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, a love triangle, a subplot love story, and something about an IOU being called in, and there’s a lot to consider.

It’s relatively rare these days to hear such a large orchestra, and this group rises to the occasion, with Andrew Johnson’s sound design ensuring neither instruments nor strong vocals overpower one another. And, goodness me, there is considerable ‘triple threat’ talent in this cast – with the ‘Kate’ of the show’s title, played by Sydney Richards, possessing an appropriately magnetic stage presence: this isn’t a leading lady in the making, she’s a leading lady full stop. The perennial ‘problem’, inverted commas mine, of youth productions is that every character is played by someone in the same age bracket. To that end, it was genius casting to have the youngest person in this group, eleven-year-old Ace Willis, play a father figure. On paper, it’s not supposed to work, but on stage, it just does.

The set (Richard Cooper) is made up of monochrome drawings – of the proscenium arch stage in which The Taming of the Shrew (well, sections of a version of it) is performed, and of various props, statues and portraits – which contrasts well with his brightly coloured but nonetheless period costumes. The ‘actual’ story was difficult to date until Truman and Dewey were name-dropped in a late scene, a reference to the 1948 US presidential election. Otherwise, there were so many references to Shakespeare (over four hundred years ago) or love (timeless, no?), that with a few allusions to mobile telephony and social media, the show could easily be transported to contemporary times.

The harmonies in the musical numbers were a delight to listen to, and Adam Haigh’s lively choreography harnesses the energy of the young cast brilliantly. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Petruchio (Charlie Weaver) declaring his devotion for Katharine in the second half reprise of ‘So in Love’. A briskly paced production, it’s at least twenty minutes shorter than the Old Vic revival your reviewer saw as a punter back in 2012, and as far as this version goes, less is indeed more. ‘Too Darn Hot’ could well be an anthem for many countries in the northern hemisphere this summer – Britain being a notable exception – but it’s an accurate description of this sizzling show, pulsating with passion and full of fire.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The battle of the sexes takes centre stage as former spouses feud onstage and off during a musical presentation of The Taming of the Shrew. Kiss Me, Kate boasts a sparkling Cole Porter score and a brilliant book from Sam and Bella Spewack.

Egotistical leading man, director, and producer Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The battle of the sexes continues onstage and off, as it becomes clear that, as much as this couple profess to hate each other, they are also still in love. Alongside their bickering liaison, the show’s supporting actress, Lois Lane, supports her gambling boyfriend, Bill, as he attempts to evade the clutches of local gangsters.

Throw in a number of cases of mistaken identity, the mob, and comedic routines into the mix and you get Kiss Me, Kate – a dazzling Broadway classic that earned the very first Tony award for Best Musical.

Running Time: 2 hours 35 mins (including a 20-minute interval)

WED 9 AUG — SAT 12 AUG 2023

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