It is a charming musical comedy that is beautiful to see, according to director Michael Boynton. The songs are amazing and this is the drama department’s largest orchestra yet. But with its variety of stage looks and different levels, and scenes constantly on the go-- like the actors-- it is a visual picture that energizes the plot. The set design by Jennifer Ivey and the director embrace the “show within a show” format, said Boynton, and he adds: “It is stunning!”
“Kate” will be at the Earnest Stone Performing Arts Center Feb. 27 –Mar.2, Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The music and lyrics are b y Cole Porter and the book by Sam and Bella Spewack.
The musical opened “with great exuberance” in December of 1948, according to The Shakespeare Society’s Shakespeare Newsletter, Spring, 2005. It is the story of a theater company putting on a version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The classic has been played to numerous audiences since then and gained a new following with its Tony award-winning 1999 revival. The story revolves around backstage actors, but the core of the musical centers on Lili Vanessi (played by Alexandria Bates) and Fred Graham (Cody Harrell), Lois Lane (Meghan Browning) and Bill Calhoun (Joshua Cody Hunt).
In the plot, Fred Graham, the producer, director and leading man is looking for a hit with his musical version of Taming of the Shrew but gets more drama than he bargained for when he casts his ex-wife Lili in a role. As always, art imitates life as the stars struggle their way through an outrageous opening night that includes a visit from a would-be Vice President plus two suspicious “businessmen” in dark suits who appear at the last minute.
The costumes by Freddy Clements of the drama department are successfully “gorgeous and outrageous in design”, adds Boynton. “We had a lot of fun developing the highly theatrical, circus-like look of the Shakespearean musical scenes, and contrasting that with the period looks of backstage clothing.
“The casting was also fun,” said Boynton. The show features a large cast of students and JSU alumni. “I also asked some favors of two favorite faculty members Steve Whitton and our own Carlton Ward. Thankfully they are in the cast.”
In addition to the songs such as “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and “Too Darn Hot”, with Jeremy Stovall as Musical Director, this is a dance-heavy show. “Sometimes we forget this when remembering the songs but the dances will offer exciting moments for the audiences,” Boynton comments. “Dewayne Barrett, our choreographer, and I worked hard to ensure that each dance number not only looks fantastic but tells the story and reveals character. We wanted to bring forth brash, brassy, and visually-powerful theater in each dance and I think our students have done exceptionally well.”
“Kate” was written during the Golden Age of Musical Theater in the US when composers, musicians, directors and actors were working at the top of their form, according to The Theater Experience by Edwin Wilson. The our-pouring of these first rate musicals is unparalleled today, according to the text.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and JSU personnel, and $10 for students, children and military. For groups of 8 or more, the rate is $8. For reservations call 256-782- 5648.