Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Kiss Me, Kate dir. Bartlett Sher, Barbican Theatre ****

First night review: So can Ted Hastings from Line of Duty sing? That's an easy yes - and even a wee donkey gets a look in. Cole Porter's 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate with a book by Bella and Samuel Spewack - an exceptionally witty play-within-a-play …

Published: 5 Jun 2024. Updated: 44 days.

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First night review:

So can Ted Hastings from Line of Duty sing? That's an easy yes - and even a wee donkey gets a look in. Cole Porter's 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate with a book by Bella and Samuel Spewack - an exceptionally witty play-within-a-play show full of jazz-inspired mayhem about a divorced couple, Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, who are reunited to star in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew - at the Barbican theatre in this new Bartlett Sher production finds Adrian Dunbar in his first musical theatre role with co-star fabulous Broadway actress Stephanie J. Block making her London stage debut. Dr Who Peter Davison pops up as Lilli Vanessi's mysterious would-be Washington suitor General Harrison Howell.

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Block packs a punch

The ensemble dancing is terrific - choreographed by Anthony Van Laast while music direction is by Stephen Ridley with pit orchestra members including jazzers trumpeter John Barclay and drummer Dom Sales who also runs Jellymould Jazz (issuing The Soundless Dark last year). There's an on-stage jazz sax player cameo as well.

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Dunbar adds a certain fun haplessness to the role, particularly Fred's Shakespearian alter ego Petruchio. Block is fantastic especially on 'I Hate Men' getting the audience to sing back to her as Lilli/Kate packs a punch both literally and metaphorically. Georgina Onuorah (Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton) as Lois Lane/Bianca is every bit her match with a well gauged nice-'n'-sleazy version of 'Always True to You (In My Fashion).' Taking the first night audience's applause, above

''They'll all kow-tow - Thinkist thou?''

The first night audience loved the gangster double act of Nigel Lindsay and Black Ops' Hammed Animashaun who were funny and natural on 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare.'

Dunbar isn't overawed by all the powerhouse singers the cast provides and is best on the duo with Block on 'Wunderbar' - his first big test - and wily on the far more complicated 'I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua'. The ensemble dancers (and dancing donkey!) instil their routines with a lot of life and polish. 'Too Darn Hot' - ''I'd like to coo with my baby tonight/And pitch the woo with my baby tonight'' - is a blast. The cooing and wooing certainly worked its charms. SG

Adrian Dunbar as Fred Graham/Petruchio and Stephanie J. Block who played Lilli Vanessi/Katharine top in Kiss Me Kate now running at the Barbican until 14 September.

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Click to listen on the Spotify icon and at the top of this page for the latest playlist Yesterday's 10: The Neil Cowley Trio, photo: press

Published: 5 Jun 2024. Updated: 44 days.

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Yesterday's 10:

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The Neil Cowley Trio, photo: press