Kiss Me, Kate is so full of catchy tunes and witty dialogue that even a mediocre production would be fun. What a joy, then, to arrive at the Solvang Festival Theatre and realize that PCPA has done much better than that. From Michael Jenkinson’s flawless choreography to Misti Bradford’s perfect costuming-a challenge, given the play-within-a-play structure of the show-Kiss Me, Kate is a delightful, if slightly qualified, success.
One of the only sour notes struck throughout the evening was Kiera O’Neil as Lois Lane/Bianca Minola. Lois plays Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, the Broadway show being produced by the characters in Kiss Me, Kate, and her purposely terrible meta-acting should have been a comic highlight. Unfortunately, it was difficult to distinguish a difference between that and O’Neil’s performance throughout.
Luckily, both Emily Rogge, as Lilli Vanessi/Kate, and Shawn Pennington, as her ex-husband and Shrew costar Fred/Petrucchio, shone in their roles in both the “real” and internal productions. Their onstage chemistry, finely tuned voices, and comic timing set the stage alight. Pennington’s swagger as he appears for the first time in his purple-and-black striped velour tights as Petrucchio is priceless, and both his and Rogge’s gifts for physical comedy are noteworthy.
Although the audience certainly appreciated Rogge, Pennington, and the rest of the talented cast, the crowd favorites were Billy Breed and Andrew Goldwasser as the thuggish debt collectors who take parts in Shrew to keep an eye on Lilli and Fred. They worked the hell out of Cole Porter’s and Samuel and Bella Spewack’s classic number, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” and truly earned their part in the standing ovation at the end of the night.
Although the show dragged a bit at the beginning on the night I saw it, by the time the riotous applause began, it was easy to forget this flaw in one’s enjoyment of the whole. Kiss Me, Kate is a gorgeous production of a classic musical and made for a perfect summer night’s entertainment.