‘Kiss Me, Kate’ a wacky window into the past showing at Johnstown theater | VailDaily.com

‘Kiss Me, Kate’ a wacky window into the past showing at Johnstown theater

Alex Miller
Special to the Daily

"Kiss Me, Kate" racked up more than 1,000 performances on Broadway. The show, 70 years old, is showing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, about two hours from Vail.

It's been 70 years since "Kiss Me, Kate" opened on Broadway, and whenever one is looking at a musical of this vintage it's worth asking how it's held up. For "Kiss Me, Kate," the story of the backstage romantic conflicts among the cast of a musical, it's a mixed bag.

As usual, Candlelight's production is top-notch, with the well-resourced theater able to mount an elaborate production with everything you want in a musical: a full, live orchestra, enormous sets, fantastic costumes, complex lighting design and big musical numbers with a large cast of talented players. "Kiss Me, Kate" was aimed, at the time of its creation, to be an answer to Rodgers & Hammerstein's spectacularly successful "Oklahoma!" of 1943.

By most measures, it did quite well, racking up over 1,000 performances on Broadway, winning a Tony in 1949 for Best Musical and going onto many revivals in the ensuing decades. It may not have as many instantly recognizable songs as "Oklahoma!" but "Kiss Me Kate" makes up for it with a funny and fanciful plot involving the complicated lives of the players attempting to open a new musical based on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."

Meet the cast

The Kate of the title is Lilli Vanesse (a fun, fiery Heather McClain), the daughter of Baptista (Kent Sugg), a lord in Italy back in the day. She's the one he's having trouble marrying off, given her prickly personality. Enter suitor Petruchio (a strong-voiced Scott Hurst Jr.), who's willing to overlook Kathryn's supposed drawbacks to marry into a wealthy family.

It's an ambitious and layered set of goings-on as penned by Sam and Bella Spewack, and at times it can be a challenge to follow. Looking at this show through the lens of today's greater sensitivity to sexual harassment and gender gaps, parts of it can be a bit cringe-worthy – particularly in Act II, where Lilli's insubordination on stage as Kathryn is punished with a good spanking at the hands of Petruchio. Her bottom is so sore she cannot sit down in the following scene.

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If you can compartmentalize this kind of thing by attributing it to different times, then you've still got a fun, well-produced musical. As directed by Robert Michael Sanders and choreographed by Kate Vallee, the Candlelight's "Kiss Me, Kate" is a tight, smooth-running production.

Also worth noting is the nice lighting and sound design by Emily Maddox and Phillip Baugh, respectively. It's that kind of detail that makes these Candlelight productions worth the trip.

"Kiss Me, Kate" runs through April 15.

If you go …

What: “Kiss Me Kate,” a musical comedy.

Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Johnstown, about two hours from Vail, north of Denver.

When: Showing through April 15.

More information: Visit http://www.coloradocandlelight.com.