'Kiss Me, Kate' is fast-paced fun

By Christina Killion Valdez

Rochester Civic Theatre's production of "Kiss Me, Kate" makes for a wonderful night at, in and behind the scenes at the theater.

Every aspect of the musical comedy, which opened Friday, slid into place, starting with the show's star, Rochester's Merri Bremer.

Bremer plays actress Lilli Vanessi, who is cast as the lead in a Baltimore theater troupe's production of "The Taming of the Shrew" in 1948. Her voice flutters over love songs and is painfully lovelorn as her character is stretched through the emotions of being reunited with her ex-husband, director and actor Fred Graham, played by Rochester's Leslie Haack.


Their off-and-on-stage relationship is played out through quick-witted humor and slapstick fun.

Even those who aren't familiar with William Shakespeare's "Shrew" are sure to understand where the comedy is coming and going between Shakespeare-penned barbs and the actors' feud.

Add to that an ensemble of characters who also deserve attention.

Sarah O'Hara as actress Lois Lane, a nightclub siren playing the role of Bianca, struts her stuff and her voice in the fun-loving role. The theater-loving gangsters are hilariously played by Jack Smalley and Michael Blanco. And Charron McLeod almost stole the show as Hattie, a backstage-hand.

But the show wouldn't be complete without the fun-to-watch choreography by Michelle Yancey Clark. Costume designer Tracy Van Voorst dressed the cast in one beautiful costume after the next, and the smooth-moving, transforming sets by Douglas Sween kept the numerous scene changes fast-paced and interesting.

The show runs a quick 21⁄2; hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.

The energetic, artful and inspired production illustrates why Cole Porter's catchy music and Sam and Bella Spewack's ingenious script have entertained audiences for decades.

"Kiss Me, Kate" continues at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 28 at the Rochester Civic Theater.


Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors. For reservations, call the RCT box office at 282-8481.

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