Cole Porter classic Kiss Me Kate is a big hit with audiences at Axminster Guildhall - review by Mary Dare

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Axminster Operatic Society performed ‘Kiss me, Kate’ to full houses at the Guildhall.

Based on Shakespeare’s comedy ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ the show is a play within a play - not an easy choice for an amateur production, writes Mary Dare.

The main players each had two roles, as actors in the play Taming of the Shrew and as in their off-stage life. They had a challenging script to learn besides singing some wonderful songs by Cole Porter.

The first night started nervously but once the cast got into the first number ‘Another Op’nin, Another Show’ they relaxed and all gave of their best. Vanessa Cross, as Lilli in the Baltimore Players and as Katherine Minola in ‘The Shrew’, was in very good voice and made the most of both roles, not only singing and acting well but showing very good comic timing, excelling in the number ‘I Hate Men!’

Neil Wells as Fred Graham, the play director and as Petruchio, had a major role with a lot of difficult Shakespearean dialogue to master. He acquitted himself well and dominated the stage, his voice becoming stronger as the show progressed especially in ‘Where is the Life that Late I led’ in the second act with the male chorus.

Kelly Apps gave her usual consummate performance. With her lovely singing voice and her character portrayal, she was a good foil to Adam Chudley in their duet together. There were some very good cameo performances. Tom Matthew is a very good young singer and is an asset to the company. It would be good to see him in the future. Nick Bussian and Roly Kelly brought real comedy to the show, making the most of ‘Brush up you Shakespeare’ which left the audience asking for more.

There was a wonderful dynamic opening to the second act with the principals and chorus singing and dancing with Tom Matthews and ‘Too Darn Hot’. The choreography was well thought out managing so many people on the stage at one time was no mean feat. It was good to see some new young dancers who put everything into their numbers. The chorus as usual backed up the principals and gave substance to the scores. The orchestra cannot be praised enough, their backing of the singers made for an excellent performance. The nature of the play meant some quick scene and costume changes, all were accomplished well thanks to a good wardrobe and stage team.

The director and choreographer, Denise Churchett and Rob Preece, musical director are to be congratulated. Yet again Axminster Operatic Society has pulled off a show to remember.

Next year’s production - Jesus Christ Superstar – will be greatly anticipated.


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