Kiss Me on Grounds

When it premiered on Broadway, Kiss Me, Kate, written in 1948, won four Tony Awards, including best musical,  and the recent revival won five Tony Awards, including best musical revival. "I saw the revival of the play on Broadway," says Danny Grinberg, artistic director for the upcoming production of the show by UVA's First Year Players, "and our show is very different, more vibrant and energetic. We have more dancing and movement. I think we give the Great White Way a run for its money."
First Year Players is a UVA student-run organization that, using only first-year students, stages a musical every semester. Technical, business, and artistic staff, though, are mostly upperclass students. The plan is to provide unique opportunities for younger students to perform. Recent productions have included Crazy For You, Hair, and Damn Yankees.
"Students do everything," Grinberg explains, "from building the stage and set to putting together costumes to raising the funding for our shows."
Kiss Me, Kate takes place in the theater community in Baltimore where an ensemble is attempting to stage a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. Complications arise offstage, however, between the divorced leading players, Fred and Lilli. In true musical comedy style, the stars' tense personal life mirrors the characters, Petruchio and Katharine. Add to the lovers' conflict the gambling debt of a third actor, Bill, who portrays Lucentio in the play-within-a-play. To further the mayhem, Bill is infatuated with Lois, who portrays Lucentio's intended, Bianca, in the performance.
You can understand how these situations set the stage for some memorable Cole Porter tunes, including “I Hate Men” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Somehow, of course, the cast eventually manages to put on Shrew, and both Fred and Lilli and Bill and Lois (as well as their Shakespearean counterparts) end up happily united.
“The show speaks to the different dramas that people experience backstage and how they relate to their drama onstage,” Grinberg says. “The show must go on, as they say.” Grinberg knows some of the complications of pulling together a collection of actors, singers, and dancers. The cast of Kiss Me, Kate includes 26 members.
Grinberg has worked to lend a younger, sexier energy to the production. He has focused his attention on the gender issues inherent in the script and wants the audience to question how our thinking about male and female relationships has changed since the 16th century. If you want to see if this production provides any clues, make your plans now to get a ticket. With only four performances slated, they'll go quickly.
Kiss Me, Kate plays Thursday-Sunday, April 4-7 in the student activities building, Alderman Road. at 8 pm. $5 at the door. 295-1025

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