North Fork Community Theatre’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate” is exciting, elating, eye-popping and ear-pleasing. Shakespeare, sex, music and scintillating performances create the glamour and gaiety of Cole Porter’s most successful musical.
In it, scenes from “Taming of the Shrew” are juxtaposed with the backstage romantic trials of the leading man and woman. As the plot of Shakespeare’s comedy unfolds, the offstage scenes reveal the parallel course of the turbulent romance between the lead actors.
Cole Porter’s inspired score represents both worlds. He uses Shakespearean lines in lyrics such as “Were Thine That Special Face” and uses his sophisticated touch in “Always True to You in My Fashion.” His score overwhelms us with tender love songs, showbiz anthems, a Viennese waltz and a vaudeville number for two gangsters. Its success must have been deeply gratifying for Porter, who had never fully recovered from a riding accident a few years earlier that was to cause him continued pain for the rest of his life.
In Mattituck, an enormous cast of four principals, seven featured actors and more than 20 ensemble players are all focused like laser beams on entertaining us. This bountiful gift is offered to us through the skilled, sensitive, imaginative direction of Bob Beodeker and pulled together by the experienced, capable producer Marilee Scheer.
The Petruchio/leading man role is stunningly played by Stephen D’Amico, a handsome, manly lead whose beautiful singing voice makes him an ideal woman-tamer. The Kate/leading lady role is played with spirit and a sharp sense of humor by the lovely Laura Ahrens, who is not afraid of slapstick and who sings enchantingly.
The two secondary leads are Christopher D’Amico, a versatile and extremely attractive performer who knows what it means to “give” a performance (we thank him), and the delightful and talented Tess Leavay, an accomplished comedienne whose singing and dancing sparkle and shine.
Christina Stankewicz sets the style for the entire show when she sings and struts “Another Op’nin’, Another Show.” We kept waiting to see her again — perhaps in “Too Darn Hot”? Nicholas Troisi and Brandon Holl¬born are thrilling singers and dancers and when they’re joined by Christopher D’Amico, it’s a perfect trifecta.
Dan Yaiullo and Jacob Boergesson epitomize the theme of the show as they mix high-falutin’ references to Shakespeare with common vulgarity in the show-stopping “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”
Other attractive performances are given by Justin Harris, Michael Drozd, Luke Sisson, Tim Ferris, Ryan Boedeker and the entire ensemble.
Another 26 people provide: the torrid and colorful choreography of Erin and Tara McKenna; Charlie Scheer’s vast lighting plot; the outstanding costumes and the sturdy accompaniment by Kathleen Papot and her orchestra. (We missed the famous beguine rhythm that made “So In Love” a hit, but who cares? Cole Porter wrote “Looking down on the Jungfrau,” which is impossible since it’s one of the highest Alps but, again, who cares?)
Producer Saint Subber, who was once a stagehand for “Taming of the Shrew,” starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, suggested the idea for “Kiss Me, Kate.” He said the stars quarreled in private as much as Petruchio and Kate on stage and that it would make a good musical.
I happened to spend two years with the Lunts in “The Great Sebastians” and I never heard them argue. Once, when Mr. Lunt asked Miss Fontanne why she thought he wasn’t getting a laugh on a certain line in the tea scene, she responded with some annoyance, “Because, Alfred, you are asking for the laugh and not the cup of tea!” That was it, and a wonderful lesson in comic delivery.
“Kiss Me, Kate” was a huge success and still is. As a Viennese critic wrote, “Kiss me, Kate — again and again and again.”
‘Kiss Me, Kate’
North Fork Community Theatre
12700 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck
Evening performances continue Thursdays-Saturdays, July 29-Aug. 8, at 8; matinees on July 31 and Aug. 1, 7 and 8 at 2:30 p.m.
For tickets, call 298-NFCT (6328) or visit nfct.com.