The Independent London Newspaper

 

THEATRE: Hannah Waddingham shows off her musical might in Kiss Me, Kate

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Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne in Kiss Me Kate Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne in Kiss Me Kate Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Published: 6 December, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY

THE opening 20 minutes are a little drowsy, but Kiss Me Kate grows with every scene into a jewel of a production. It really does.

The thundering might of Hannah Waddingham leads the way as Kate, the snarling shrew in need of taming in Cole Porter’s complex classic.

She could sing the roof off the Old Vic if she wanted to, but combines that power with terrific comedy, scowling facial gymnastics to make you wonder if her cheekbones are part rubber.

Her CV traces a line from Spamalot to Grease to that Ben Elton musical stitched together with Rod Stewart songs they used to have on in the West End, to here. She must have been the first name they thought of when beginning the search for the lead part.

Of course, Waddingham and her colleagues benefit from Porter’s own genius. His idea of a show within a show, bouncing between both sides of the curtain is a majestic work, providing the wittiest of raw materials to give director Trevor Nunn a head start.

We watch the cast of a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew taking their quarrels and sub-plots onto the stage.

The usual tangled love story – hey, it’s a musical, that’s what you get with musicals – allows the ageless dancer Adam Garcia to turn up with his familiar perfect hair stardust and show off his spring heels. It’s almost as if a fire escape ladder has been positioned left of stage just for him to vault from.

In truth, it’s almost a distraction from the brilliant spats between Kate and her leading man, the scheming anti-hero Petruchio, impressively sketched by Alex Bourne. It would be a shame to miss those two at play.

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