KISS ME KATE
Chichester Festival Theatre
Trevor Nunn does Cole Porter does Shakespeare at Chichester this year. And the result is very stylish indeed, with the Pirandellian potential of the backstage drama beautifully brought out, I thought.
The setting helped here – tired old 1950s wings – though the costumes, while in period, were bandbox fresh. The engraving backdrop was exquisitely echoed in hanging drapes which emerged, like so many charmed snakes, from big boxes.
Some of the most delicious moments were those ensemble pieces [not forgetting a show-stopping tap routine] that Chichester does so well – Too Darn Hot especially, led by Jason Pennycooke's Paul. The dance arrangements by Gareth Valentine allowed the hoofers full rein, including of course Adam Garcia's charming Bill, Lucentio to Holly Dale Spencer's Bianca.
But his was by no means the finest performance. Alex Bourne was a tuneful Fred, with just the right blend of charm and cheesiness, and Hannah Waddingham was superb as Lilli, the leading lady who almost leaves the greasepaint behind for her ambitious General [Mark Henehan]. And Hattie, Miss Vanessi's dresser, was given an outstanding performance, vocally as well as dramatically, by Wendy Mae Brown. The hoods duo of Clive Rowe and David Burt was very enjoyable, though I've seen more hilarious Brush-ups ...
This 24 carat production is over-wintering at the Old Vic – you could do worse than catch up with it there, though it probably won't match the pizazz of the Chichester thrust.