It’s Another Op’nin, Another Show at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in downtown Houston as they stage Kiss Me, Kate – Cole Porter’s classic musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, cleverly set on the set of a small touring company staging a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, and boasting a terrific score including Wunderbar, So in Love, and Too Darn Hot.

The cast features the rich vocals of Ryan Cole as Fred (who plays Petruchio in the play within the play), with Fred trying to tolerate starring opposite his ex-wife Lilli (who plays Katherine/Kate/the Shrew in the play within the play). But do they have a love-hate relationship, or a hate-hate relationship? It may take them the entire show to figure it out, but we get some nostalgic glimpses into the love they once enjoyed when they reminisce together with their beautiful rendition of Wunderbar, and when Alyssa Davidson sings her gorgeous and haunting So In Love. Of course, nowadays her attitude toward Fred and others of his gender appears to have hardened a bit, inspiring her comically venomous I Hate Man during which she pushes an unfortunate sleeping man right off the stage.

If working the same show can’t get these two back together, then maybe a couple of thugs can do the job. Josh Langham and Matthew Jamison are a rip as the gun-toting collection agents who believe Fred owes their boss ten G’s, and they’re determined that the show must go on until the debt is paid in full. The two of them make for a great pair from the moment they shush the audience with some nonchalant waving of their guns to their suggestion that single guys might want to Brush Up Their Shakespeare.

But hey, this is a touring company of actors who know Shakespeare, so naturally there are a few other romances going on backstage. Most notably with Lois/Bianca and every Tom, Dick, or Harry she meets. Megan Stanke is a highly talented actress and comedian with a gift for ditziness (easily surprised, vacant expressions over anything that might require thought, lots of quirky noises). And when Lois plays Bianca, she’s the ultimate awkward actress who clearly got her role via the casting couch. Add to that some strong dancing, singing, and a million-dollar smile, and Megan nails the role. Chris Canal is Bill, the chap with the tough job of trying to rein Lois into becoming a one-man woman (rather than her just being true to him “in her fashion”). He woos her with some good period vocals and style as he leads the cast in the song-and-dance Bianca.

Other standouts include Robbie Moore as Paul who kicks off Act Two leading the cast with a well-choreographed, well-performed, and steamy Too Darn Hot. Diondre McKinney takes charge as a seriously funny General Harrison Howell with a little General MacArthur action going on, who throws himself his own ticker-tape parade. Elsewhere, Paxton Collins gives an amusing performance as the stage manager, while the ensemble shines in Too Darn Hot and in the humorously staged Where is the Life that Late I Led in which a wistful Ryan Cole reflects on his many former loves depicted so well by the female players.

Director Cynthia Ogden has put together a strong show with several amusing touches, from the gangsters work with the audience to a hilarious town brawl that ends when the townswomen kick butt with sticks. Not to mention a nod to Texas when the beautiful hat that Kate almost gets to wear ends up being a cowboy hat.

Performed February 4 - 7, 2009.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Baltimore/Shrew Players/Pops/Padua Priest: Jonquel Holiday
Hattie: Mahoganee Medlock
Paul/Padua Citizen: Robbie Moore
Ralph/Padua Citizen: Paxton Collins
Lois/Bianca: Megan Stanke
Bill/Lucentio: Chris Canal
Lilli/Katherine: Alyssa Davidson
Fred/Petruchio: Ryan Cole
Harriet/Baptista: Clipper Hamrick
Riley/Hortensio: Elias Fredriksson
Flynt/Gremio: Jhardon Milton
General Harrison Howell: Diondre McKinney
Stagehand 1/Nathaniel: Zack Mikan
Stagehand 2/Phillip: John Carter V
Stagehand 3/Gregory: Aly Haddad
First Gunman/Aide to Katherine: Josh Langham
Second Gunman/Aide to Katherine: Matthew Jamison
Wardrobe Ladies/Padua Citizen: Rashel Ochoa and Kayla Ochoa
Cab Driver/Driver for Gen. Harrison Howell: Phillip Young
Padua Inn Waitress: Rebecca Thompson

Women's Ensemble for Bianca/Padua Citizens:
Mahoganee Medlock
Kayla Ochoa
Rashel Ochoa
Rebecca Thompson

Ensemble Singers/Padua Citizens:
John Cameron Carter
Eleonora Fracasso
Michael Karl
Jonathan Moore
Alessandro Nori
Penelope Pezotta
David Reeves
Simona Tombesi

Dance Captain/Padua Citizen: Elizabeth Holtz

Dance Ensemble/Padua Citizens:
Ilaria Antinori
John Raffles Durbin
Natalie Eramo
Margot Gelber
Michelle giordanelli
Nicole Koch
Chad Legg
Maya Sederholm
Gage Self
Stacy Skolnik
Lorenzo Soragni

Jesters/Understudies: Becca Holtz and Blaire Ostendorf

Director: Cynthia Ogden
Musical Director: Rob Seible
Conductor: Stephen Crawford
Choreographer: Luanne Carter and Janie Carothers
Fight Choreographer: Terry Ogden
Technical Director: James Black
Costume Designer: Laurie Hussman
Stage Manager: Emily Nichol
Lighting Designer: Alex Casillas and Allen Jircik
Sound Designer: Andrew Harper


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