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Kiss Me Kate: London Coliseum

July 4, 2018

(seen at the afternoon performance on 30th June 2018)

It simply may have been “Too Darn Hot,” or (more likely) “end of run blues” at the penultimate performance in the penultimate week of touring, but this “Kiss Me Kate” from Opera North was sadly a mere peck-on-the cheek rather than the full-on-snog regional reviews advertised.

At ridiculous London prices, this looked shabby from the off. Sure, a huge cast and orchestra, but the set was mostly back-cloths and clearly designed for far smaller stages as the sides were so masked with black curtain it could have been a funeral.

Far worse, the whole thing was pushed back over a metre from the stage front, putting the audience on St Martin’s Lane, as the actors performed somewhere, I’d estimate, around Floral Street. And sometimes it also sounded like it, too. The Coliseum has near perfect sightlines and acoustics, what on earth allowed them to go ahead in this manner?

There was some attempt at giving us value for money. According to the programme, and indeed my own memories of past productions, there were ladles of forgotten and cut material, none of which added much to the show except running time and perhaps boasting rights for those who know the score better than I do and could pick out the extra bars and instruments.

The story remains delightfully politically incorrect, though the violent misogyny is thankfully toned down. Stephanie Corley (Kate) does well enough, helping a slightly under-powered Quirijn De Lang (Petruchio) through an acting role he found difficult. Being fair, his “Where Is The Life That Late I Led?” worked reasonably well, thanks to – by this production’s standards – some light-hearted staging.

Stephane Corley (Lilli) came close with “So In Love,” but Zoe Rainey (Bianca / Lois) scores the biggest hit with “Always True To You In My Fashion,” the only member of the company able to truly breach the divide that afternoon.

Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin as First and Second Gunman struggled to get “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” across, barely raising a laugh until the final verse, but deserve credit for perseverance.

“Too Darn Hot” for the company was the single moment in which the ensemble shone, a brief flicker of life at the start of act two before a return to mediocrity.

For an opera company to tackle a Broadway musical is brave, to put it on the road braver still, and to face a West End audience at the end of it admittedly admirable. Trouble is, there’s an excellent DVD of the Victoria Palace version, staged by Broadway Theatre (Theater, fair enough) experts, which really outflanks this in every way. Considering the resources used, that really is a bit of a pity.


3 stars – and only thanks to a couple of outstanding performances.

  1. tonyloc permalink
    July 4, 2018 10:22 am

    That’s a very fair review of what seems to have been a misjudged and overambitious attempt for an opera company to stage a classic Broadway musical and certainly to bring it to one of the biggest theatres in the West End at the end of a long tour.

    Some oficianados of the musical theatre have said it was all too slow, even the music, but I thought musically it was excellent. The slowness to me was caused by under-powered casting of the main two roles to get through the dialogue scenes, and direction that failed to understand how to project the piece dramatically into a big theatre, hampered by generally messy staging and inferior sets. Taking everything faster would not have solved the basic problems and just made it even messier, in my opinion!

    It had a few bright moments, especially Alan Burkitt’s ‘Bianca’ and Zoe Rainey’s ‘Always true to you in my fashion’ but overall, as you rightly said, it failed to live up to the glowing reviews it received earlier in its tour.

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      July 4, 2018 10:50 am

      Thanks Tony, I’m glad it came over as fair rather than simply ripping it to shreds for over-ambition. That wouldn’t be right for sure.

      Yes, I thought the tempo was slow at times, but put it down to keeping pace with the languid performances. I didn’t think of the under-powered casting, but you are correct now it has been said, thank you. The advantage of taking it quicker meant we could have been out a half hour sooner, though…

      Zoe was amazing, Alan I admit I didn’t take to as much.

      I do wonder too, what it was like in its original home and production. Ah well, we will never know. Such is theatre, open in Venice on to Verona etc, etc…

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