MARQUETTE - Another fine piece of theatre graces the boards of Kaufman Auditorium this weekend as the M.S.H.S. fine arts department takes the stage with "Kiss Me Kate," a 1948 Tony Award winning musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
This wonderful production was skillfully managed by the team of sirector-scenic designer Marty Martello, vocal director-accompanist Jan Broderson and producer-orchestra director Janis Peterson. They cast a marvelous ensemble of young people who, from start to finish, showed that hard work and dedication pay off in the end.
The story involves the production of a musical version of William Shakespeare's T"he Taming of the Shrew" and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show's director, producer, and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, who runs afoul of gangsters.
The two leads are a delight to watch and listen to. The role of Fred is played by Martinus Gray, who has an impressive singing voice and a strong stage presence; Liz Grugin as Lilli takes the stage with powerful vocals not allowing Mr. Gray to upstage her in any way. The secondary couple is also a fun story to follow with brilliant performances by Jill Vermeulen as Lois and Bryce Genovese as Bill.
There are some other talented individuals who have standout solo moments. Ethan Bott plays General Harrison Howell who shines during his solo and gives a commanding portrayal. Maitri White plays Hattie and when she sings her beautiful voice brings out the very essence of the era that this music was written. David Bashaw plays the role of Paul and his song, "Too Darn Hot," is an absolute snazzy show stopper. His energy throughout the song is boundless and the dance team highlighted in the number is just fantastic.
This show contains a whole lot of drama, but it has some outstanding comic relief as well. The gangsters that have been sent to collect a gambling debt that has been wrongly assigned to Mr. Graham are played flawlessly by Mike Ryan and Joel Wooley. Their timing and New Yorker accents are a hoot and when they come on at the end to deliver "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," it's the perfect 11 o'clock spot.
There are a few honorable mentions with spotlighted roles, Jack Bowers as Stage Doorman-Padua Priest, Chase Wilkinson as Flynt-Gremio, Dawson McKenzie as Riley-Hortensio and Alejandro Rodriguez Zamora as the Dance Captain. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the chorus. They are strong and give fine support to round out the cast.
I wish this show ran at least another week so more people could experience it and the cast had the opportunity to enjoy these roles a bit longer but unfortunately that is not the case. "Kiss Me Kate" closes tonight at 7 in Kaufman Auditorium. If you come to this amazing ensemble and show your support for the students, you will not be disappointed.
Editor's note: Rusty Bowers is an actor and theater enthusiast of long standing in the community.