Take one talented high school cast and crew, mix in classic Shakespeare, some Cole Porter tunes, and a bit of farce, and you have a delightful evening of entertainment with “Kiss Me, Kate” at The Wesleyan School last weekend.
The Wolf Players outdid themselves with this production. Acting and singing were universally strong throughout the show. The choreography was superb. The sets and costumes were brilliant and beautiful. And best of all, the students were having a ball and leaving the audience in stitches.
“Kiss Me, Kate” is a show about a theatrical troupe presenting a musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” The troupe is led by actor/director/producer Frederic Graham/Petruchio, who has cast his temperamental ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, as Katherine. Leandro Haddad portrayed Graham/Pertruchio and Anna Ree tackled the role of Lilli/Katherine. Both proved to be wonderful singers, taking command of the stage and wholeheartedly embodying their characters. Their exuberant duet, “Wunderbar,” was pure joy, while Ree’s lovely and reflective “So in Love” and Haddad’s upbeat “Where Is the Life That Late I Led” allowed both of these young actors to really shine.
Graham has also hired a night club singer, Lois Lane, for the role of Katherine’s younger sister, Bianca, and Lois’ boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, for the role of Lucentio. These two characters bring a different type of romantic tension to the show displayed in “Why Can’t You Behave?” and “Always True to You in My Fashion.” Lexi Mellott and Jaucqir Lafond were terrific in the roles of Lois and Bill, respectively.
This musical opens both acts with terrific ensemble pieces. Act I begins with “Another Op’nin’, Another Show.” Andrew Pridgen (Stage Doorman/Padua Priest), Tyler Sturtevant (Stagehand #1), Braden Thorne (Hortensio), Abrianna Harris (Hattie), and Jessica Roberts (Wardrobe Lady) led the entire ensemble in this fun-filled opener. Act II begins with a totally different mood with “Too Darned Hot,” led by Zach Green (Paul), Will Rainwater (Gremio), and Thorne. The appreciative audience was on their feet after this energetic production.
Rounding out the cast were Patterson Beaman (Second Man), Darby Carroll (Padua Waitress), Patrick English (Harry Trevor/Baptista), Brooks Lalley (First Man), Jack Norris (Gregory), Adam Rogers (General Harrison Howell/Innkeeper), Emily Sabonis-Chafee (Barbara), Daniel Salyers (Stagehand #2/Philip), Lizzy Stainback (Woman #2), Laura Von Bargen (Woman #1), and Jared Wildermuth (Stagehand #2/Driver/Haberdasher).
Ladies Ensemble members included Annie Cowart, Rachel McFarland, Kelsey Rappe, and Alexis Wildermuth. Dancers included Amanda Doane, Sarah Dryden, Eulaya Erb (Dance Captain), Madison Lloyd, and Grayson Ragsdale.
“Kiss Me, Kate” was directed by Steven Broyles with musical direction by Brock Derringer. Choreography was by Maguire Wilder and Stephanie Simmons. Assistant Directors were Beth McConnell and Macey Sims. Technical Director was Chad Simmons and Scene Shop Supervisor was Richard Staz.
Orchestra members included Jennifer Derringer, Janice Yoon, Bill Scruggs, Keigh Cordell, Ryan Robertson, Josh Crook, Ron Tuner, Justin Powell, Darrell Jefferson, Luke Weathington, Noah Vece, Neil Newcomb, Michael Opitz, George Sandler, and Skyler Williams.
Crew members/designers included Maguire Wilder, Bailey Renfroe, Carson McKinney, Lauren Pavelec, Madeline Benfield, Jana Smith, Ellie Archer, Emily Kelly, Judy Beaman, Joan Rogers, Nathaly Haddad, Diane Warren, Kim Mellott, Kim Sabonis-Chafee, Julia Norton, Richard Staz, Macey Sims, Preston Wilder, Maximus Smith, Sumeet Singh, Tom Sabonis-Chafee, Esther Williams, Steve Ward, Mitchell Mayfield, Whitney Panetta, Lisa Smith, Spencer Sutlive, Brian Morgan, and Michael Mann.