According to Cole Porter, women are simple beings, easily wooed by poetry and flowers and irrationally quick-tempered. But, in the end, they're likely to admit their faults, take up their shame and ask forgiveness of the men who so patiently put up with them.
Luckily, Mr. Porter, your knowledge of music far surpassed your knowledge of women, making your ever-popular Kiss Me, Kate bearable -- enjoyable, even.
It helps, too, that the talented folks at Light Opera Oklahoma are the ones staging your spectacle for audiences at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St.
Porter's 1948 musical is a play within a play, with the author's characters staging a modern-day (for the 1940s) musical production of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
The show's producer, director and star is Fred Graham (Ron Loyd), a macho guy with a booming voice and an ego to match. His co-star is also his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Christina Hager, making her LOOK debut).
Also in the cast are Lois Lane (Andrea Leap), a naive and inexperienced ingénue who's caught Graham's attention, and Bill Calhoun (Erick Castille), a compulsive gambler and Lane's lover.
The players are set to stage their show in Baltimore, rehearsing before the curtain call. The tension between Graham and Vanessi is palpable, with him outright putting her down at times. In the dressing room, their playfully biting quips turn into a fond reminiscing, and they each realize they still have feelings for the other.
The problem is, Vanessi is engaged to General Harrison Howell (Patrick Jacobs), a well-to-do military man who gives Vanessi everything she wants -- monetarily.
Their tender moment is cut short when a couple of mobsters (Christian Elser and Patrick Howle) intrude on Graham ("Gra-ham"), demanding he pay the $10,000 he owes their boss. Graham has no idea what they're talking about, but we know Calhoun recently lost $10,000 and signed Graham's name to the I.O.U.
Right before our principals are set to appear on stage, a bouquet of flowers arrive in Vanessi's room, the same bouquet she carried on her wedding day. And the day in question just happens to be the anniversary of the couple's divorce.
Graham realizes quickly the flowers he sent to Lane were mistakenly given to Vanessi and talks her out of reading the accompanying card. But rather than give it to him, she tucks it into her bra, and the troupe begins its performance of Shrew.
In the company's version of the tale, Lane's character, Bianca, is courted by many admirers and willing to marry just about everyone. Unfortunately, her father, Baptista Minola (a surprise appearance by the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce's Economist Bob Ball) refuses to allow her to marry until he can also marry off his elder daughter, Vanessi's Katharine.
Katharine, with an agitated demeanor, proclaims she hates men and seems impossible to wed. Luckily(?) for her (father), Graham's character, Petruchio, is in search of a wife and doesn't care what her personality is like as long as she comes with a fat dowry.
Baptista practically sells his daughter to the man, and it appears as though everyone will live in bigoted bliss. Until ...
Midway through the show, "You bastard!" is heard in a scream offstage, and Graham immediately realizes Vanessi has read the card. Her fury only fuels her performance.
The remainder of the first act is spent with the two physically fighting each other, not even pretending to stay in character, and ends with Graham giving Vanessi a hard whomp on the ass.
During intermission, Vanessi threatens to leave, but Graham uses his gangster guests to keep her on stage, until her fiancé arrives to take her away, revealing to Graham that he essentially agrees with the plot of Shrew and its approach to handling women.
Graham, who by now has realized he's still in love with his ex-wife, tries to warn Vanessi, but she leaves anyway.
It appears the play, without its lead actress, will crumble in the final scene, but Vanessi appears, sings a song of apology, and the shows end happily.
LOOK's version of this show is light, fun and playful. No doubt every member of its cast contributes to the show's success. Its four leads have the most opportunity to shine, belting their solos with grace and ease. Their characters are likeable, if a little generic, and their talent is undeniable.
There is a definite chemistry between Loyd and Hager, but, seeing Loyd in LOOK productions for five years now, there aren't too many leading ladies with whom he doesn't have chemistry.
Hager is someone I definitely expect to see appearing in LOOK shows in the future.
Elser and Howle, as our gangsters turned on-stage attendants, could be accused of stealing the show. Their characters were some of the most fun and garnered some of the heartiest laughs.
Also standout was Ross McCorkle, who played Paul, Fred's dresser, and led the company in a fantastic dance routine at the top of the second act during arguably one of the best numbers of the show, "Too Darn Hot." Laura Tyson choreographed the number.
Kiss Me, Kate plays twice more, at the Coleman Theatre in Miami and the Okmulgee Main Street Association in Okmulgee. For tickets to these shows, only a short drive from Tulsa, go to www.lightoperaok.org.
Due to demand, LOOK has added two performances of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend, July 6 and 7 at 8pm in the PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre. For tickets to that show, go to www.tulsapac.com.
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