Cole Porter and Shakespeare. Two peas in a pod, right?
It’s not as unlikely a combo as you might think. Though separated by a century or three, the two writers shared a gift for wordplay alternately comic and heartfelt. “Kiss Me Kate,” the classic musical now on view courtesy of Stage Door Players, allows their worlds to collide.
The Bard’s “Taming of the Shrew” was adapted (and expanded) by Samuel and Bella Spewack, with Porter providing music and lyrics. It’s set at Ford’s Theatre, Baltimore, in 1948—the same year this, the high tide of Porter’s Broadway effort, opened. It ran for more than 1,000 performances, and has been revived more often than the cast of “The Walking Dead.”
“Kate” is also based on the well-known-at-the-time feuding of real-life stage couple Lunt and Fontaine. A Lunt-type star tries to stage “Shrew” opposite the leading lady who was once his wife, to adorable chaotic effect. The best subject for theater is always theater itself. But for a musical, it’s all about tunes glorious enough to take home with you. We get those, too.
The show begins with the ensemble piece, “Another Op’nin,’ Another Show,” led by Xylina Stamper with her gloriously powerful set of pipes and stage presence. In deference to the likes of Shakespeare and Porter, allow us simply to say: “Wow!”
Act Two opens with the steamy ensemble piece “Too Darn Hot,” led by the talented Greg Hunter. You also may recognize “Why Can’t You Behave?,” “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” and more.
Leading the cast is the Atlanta stage veteran Bryant Smith as Fred Graham/Petruchio. Smith’s voice is showcased to perfection on “Were Thine That Special Face” and “Where Is the Life I Led?” Paige Mattox returns to Stage Door as Lilli Vanessi/Kate and has a lovely duet with Smith (“Wunderbar) as well as the tender “So in Love,” another standard that is anything but standard. Less tender but plenty pleasing is her rousing rendition of “I Hate Men.” Okay then.
Lyndsay Ricketson is Lois Lane (no, not that one), a beautiful young addition to the troupe. “Always True to You in My Fashion” is custom-fit to her. Ricketson has a gorgeous duet (“We Sing of Love”) with AJ Klopach (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio). Luis R. Hernandez (Gangster) and Jessica DeMaria (Gun Moll) are hilarious, hustling to keep several cast members in sight so they can collect a debt.
Rounding out the cast are Ritchie Crownfield, Benjamin Davis, George Deavours, Tyler Sarkis, Brittany Ellis and Shelby Folks.
“Kiss Me, Kate” is directed by Alan Kilpatrick with technical assistance from J. D. Williams (Lighting Design), Chuck Welcome (Set Design/Scenic Artist), Jim Alford (Costume Design), Kathy Ellsworth (Properties Design), Rial Ellsworth (Sound Design), George Deavours (Wig Design), Nick Silvestri (Musical Director/Pianist), Jen MacQueen (Choreographer), Hayley Brotherton (Production Manager), Jenna Sargent (Stage Manager) Bill Byrne (Assistant Stage Manager), and musicians Kaylee Bramlett (Reeds), Drew Burkett (Bass), Adam D. Wolfe (Drums), and Jonathan Swygert (Trumpet).
Productions of “Kiss Me, Kate” continue through Aug. 7 with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets are $30 for adults, $27 for senior adults, $22 for students, and $15 for youth under 12 years and are available by contacting the Box Office at (770) 396-1726. Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody and on the Web at stagedoorplayers.net.