“The overture is about to start, you cross your fingers and hold your heart, it’s curtain time and away we go, another op’nin’, another show.”
While those lyrics, penned by Cole Porter, were intended to describe the experience of the actors, as a theatre goer and uniquely, a theatre critic, this also aptly describes my experience before a show begins. The same anticipation built as I awaited the opening bars of Kiss Me Kate at the Gold Coast Little Theatre.
The set, dripping in a design I’ve come to associate with director Andrew Cockraft-Penman, greets the audience with a projection that showcases iconic Hollywood films of yesteryear. Not only does it help set the scene and energy of the show, but it transports the audience to the golden era of filmmaking.
Whilst the opening number of the show set up the meta-theatrical experience brilliantly described in Porter’s lyrics, it lacked pizazz. The cast seemed a little unpolished by opening night standards, especially considering the lively nature of the number itself. Although the intention and potential was there, it wasn’t quite reached, and left me hoping it would tighten up as the season progresses.
With this being said, the scenes to follow flowed wonderfully, with a stellar performance by Naomi Mole as the titular character of Kate. This character is adapted from Shakespeare’s Katherine of The Taming of the Shrew, and was later reimagined in the modern, 90s-era teen romance movie 10 Things I Hate About You. Mole’s performance as Kate showcased her excellent soprano range, however this was also contrasted in the iconic rage-filled song “I Hate Men”.
Tess Burke truly embodied the character of Lois Lane from the minute the curtain rose. Her musical numbers “Tom, Dick or Harry” and “Always True to You (In My Fashion)” showcased some of the best of the golden era of musicals, and her performance rightfully did them justice.
Standout performances from the ensemble included Joe Burke Jr, who elicited laughs every time he set foot on the stage. His incredible performance of Baptista truly was a highlight of the show. Pete Keavy also delivered some incredible comedy.
The biggest downfall of this production, however, was the sound design. The sound operator seemed incapable of turning off microphones when actors were offstage, therefore causing what would’ve been an unbeatable show to be underscored by a cacophony of coughs and heavy nasal breathing.
The microphone levels were off throughout the show, and did not allow for the handiwork of the company to be displayed and honoured in the way it should have been. I do hope this issue is resolved as the production continues, and that the team of sound reevaluate to smooth out these audio kinks.
Cockraft-Penman’s direction was quick, intelligent and honourable. Having the characters of Paul and Hatti, played by Patrick Phillips and Freya Haywood, bare witness to the trials and tribulations of the tumultuous relationship between Kate and her male lead Fred (Simon Stone) was a sweet addition to the scene. It is little nuances like this that excite me about watching Cockraft-Penman’s shows; there’s always something new and exciting in his interpretations.
Kiss Me Kate is an absolute classic, and despite not having aged spectacularly, this production is a treat. It’s exciting to see golden era musicals gracing the stage to break up the influx of contemporary theatre we’ve experienced over the past year.
Kiss Me Kate at Gold Coast Little Theatre runs through until the 29th of July.
To book tickets head to www.gclt.com.au.