Thanks to Roundabout Theatre Company, Kiss Me, Kate! – the first-ever winner of the Tony Award for “Best Musical” – returns to the Great White Way. This brand new revival of the Cole Porter musical comedy classic plays an extended limited engagement at the iconic Studio 54 from February 14 through to June 30, 2019 and stars Tony Award winner and Broadway favorite Kelli O'Hara.
On December 12, 2016, Roundabout staged a one-night-only benefit concert of Kiss Me, Kate! and enthused fans in attendance hoped that a full-scale production would not be far behind. The concert was directed by eight-time Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis and saw Kelli O’Hara and Tony Award nominee Will Chase taking on the roles of the sparring married couple Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham, respectively. The fans’ wishes were granted in November 2017, when Roundabout did indeed announce a fully-staged Broadway revival for the 2018-2019 season. Even better news was that Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Chase had both signed on to reprise their roles for the production, once again under the direction of Scott Ellis. Enlisting Tony Award-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle and “High School Musical” and Broadway alum Corbin Bleu (playing Bill Calhoun) was the cherry on top of the musical cake.
Kiss Me, Kate! features a book by Samuel and Bella Spewack (who were reportedly experiencing marital troubles of their own at the time). The husband-and-wife writing team had been approached in 1947 by producer Arnold Saint-Subber who had witnessed the domestic unrest between Alfred Lunt and his wife Lynn Fontanne, both on and off the stage, during a 1935 production of The Taming of the Shrew, inspiring the story of the future musical. The Spewacks, in turn, enlisted Cole Porter to write the score, which would ultimately include such standards as “Too Darn Hot,” “So In Love,” and “Always True To You In My Fashion.”
After a brief, pre-Broadway tryout in Philadelphia, Kiss Me, Kate! officially opened at the New Century Theatre on Broadway on December 30, 1948. The original production, which starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk, and Harold Lang, went on to win the first-ever Tony Award for “Best Musical” in 1949. Indeed, it won all five categories in which it was nominated (including “Best Author (Musical)” for the Spewacks, “Best Original Score” for Cole Porter, “Best Costume Design” for Lemuel Ayers, and “Best Producer of a Musical” for Arnold Saint-Subber and Lemuel Ayers). Since then, Kiss Me, Kate! has enjoyed a brief Broadway revival in 1952 and a 1999 production that became a Tony Award-winning “Best Revival of a Musical” in 2000. The musical has been performed in numerous West End engagements from 1951 to 2018 and was also adapted into a film in 1953, starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)