Inspired by the likes of Orson Welles’ “Voodoo Macbeth” and the swing version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta entitled “Hot Mikado,” Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps re-thought “Kiss Me Kate” as an African-American production. Cole Porter would be delighted with the results. Directed by Epps and starring multi-Emmy Award winning Wayne Brady (Fred/Petruchio) and Broadway’s Merle Dandridge (Lilli/Kate), along with the mighty triple-threat talent of the entire cast brought the audience to its feet on opening night, Sunday, September 21, 2014.
Here are ten reasons (in no particular order) that American musical theater lovers should not miss this show:
1. Wayne Brady’s infectious charm, stage presence and impeccable comic-timing.
2. Merle Dandridge’s statuesque beauty, acting chops and versatile vocal abilities.
3. Joanna A. Jones whose irresistible rendition of “Always True to You in My Fashion” brought the house down.
4. Memorable melodies and witty, literate lyrics by Cole Porter.
5. The company’s smokin’ performance of second act opening “Too Darn Hot” complete with a terrific tap dancing segment by Rogelio Douglas, Jr. Yes, indeed.
6. The jazz to revival meeting panache of “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” led by Janelle Lynn Randall.
7. Heavenly harmonies.
8. David K. Mickelsen’s costumes and Carol F. Doran’s wig and hair design, especially Fred’s piece.
9. Live music with an outstanding orchestra conducted by keyboardist Rahn Coleman.
10. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”
The construction of “Kiss Me Kate” is a bit odd. While the second act opening number is spectacular, it kind of comes out of nowhere and does not seem connected to the plot. And the final moments of the show are a little soft. But these are mere quibbles about what is a thoroughly enjoyable show.
“Kiss Me Kate” performs 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through October 12. Tickets, priced from $47 to $145, are available by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529, at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday – Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. during non-performance dates. On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.
The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. For more information, visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.