Kiss Me Kate: sharp, funny, an absolute winner

Richard Lutz brushes up his Shakespeare, thanks to the Welsh National Opera.


This is opera…but not as we know it, Jim.

No big spears. bellowing to the gods upstairs nor big bellied baritones here. This is opera-lite, if not flat out Broadway, from Welsh National Opera as it takes Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, reworked and musicified by Cole Porter and then transformed – hey, presto – into part of the WNO tribute to the Bard, marking the 400th anniversary of his death.

The songs are, if not famously memorable, at least familiar. And this 68 year old song and dance fest includes some of the niftiest tunes around. WNO doesn’t disappoint a Birmingham Hiippodrome audience who were more than ready to tap toes and offer a smile.

The intriguingly named Quinjin de Lang (he’s Dutch by the way) is Fred Graham, the raffish leading man in a raggedy Taming of the Shrew, whose own personal life reflects the play that Shakespeare conjured up in the 1590’s. His leading lady is his ex-wife who also plays Kate on stage and they row and spit and battle, on stage and offstage, and are still truly in love.

josephshovelton1stgunmanandjohnsavournin2ndgunmanwnoskissmekate-photocreditrichardhubertsmith-8888Hats off to understudy Claire Wild, who stepped in to perfectly take over the Kate role and belt it out with numbers such as Wunderbar, So In Love and We Open in Venice. And a big hand also to Joseph Shovelton and John Savourin (left) a pair of gawky dimwitted gangsters who get to sing and mug their way through the signature Brush Up Your Shakespeare (with a gunshot or two for effect).

Set design is a visual treat, recreating a giant medieval tapestry that acts as a backdrop as the Cole Porter classics roll on, song by song, still a delight after almost seven decades of life. This production is an absolute winner, just right as mist and rain sets in for winter.

Tickets: Until 12th November.