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University Theatre to present ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

LAWRENCE — The University Theatre will open its 2013-2014 season this month with the staging of the seminal Broadway musical and Tony Award winner “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Performances will be 7:30 p.m. July 12-13 and July 18-20 as well as 2:30 p.m. July 14 and July 21 at Stage Too! in Murphy Hall.

The cleverly crafted production, with unforgettable music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Sam and Bella Spewack, took home five Tony Awards, including the very first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. The original production of “Kiss Me, Kate” opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre on Dec. 30, 1948, and ran for 1,077 performances. Featuring 18 classic Cole Porter songs — including “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “Too Darn Hot” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” — “Kiss Me, Kate” is the epitome of  Broadway musical comedy at its unequivocal best.

“Kiss Me, Kate’s” sophisticated humor charms audiences by adapting Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” to the musical stage for an all-out battle of the sexes. When Fred Graham (Stephen Dagrosa, Hadden Heights, N.J., master’s graduate), the show’s director, producer and star, sparks on- and off-stage conflict with this ex-wife and leading lady, Lilli Vanessi (Julia Geisler, Wexford, Pa., master’s student), chaos ensues as characters sing, dance and fall in love in verse.

This University Theatre “Revisionist” or “Jewel Box” production includes an ensemble of 11 performers playing more than 25 roles. “Kiss Me, Kate” is directed and choreographed by John Staniunas, professor of theatre, with music direction by Ryan McCall, University Theatre accompanist. Rebecca Damren, Atlanta MFA student, is assistant directing and stage managing the production. Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, is the scenic and lighting designer, and Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre, is the costume designer.

After the success of last summer’s “My Fair Lady,” Director John Staniunas said he wanted to continue the concept of stripping down large musicals to a minimalist cast in order to provide a fresh experience for audiences.

“‘Kiss Me, Kate’ is one of the most successful musical adaptations of Shakespeare because it truly does take place in the theatre,” Staniunas said. “This is a play within a play, so the amount of complexity and layers the entire small ensemble has to bring to the stage is not only transformative for our patrons but necessary for successful storytelling.”

Additional cast members include Rachel Tolbert, Topeka sophomore, as Lois/Bianca; Luke Reddig, Clive Iowa, junior, as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio; Brian Duerksen, Wichita recent master’s graduate as General Pops/Innkeeper/General Howell; Troy Clifford Dargin, Lawrence doctoral student, as Ralph/Hortensio/Haberdasher; Michael Colman, Charleston, S.C., master’s student, as Paul/Gremio/Phillip; Elaina Smith, Olathe senior, as Harriet/Baptista; Lily Lancaster, Lawrence sophomore, as Gangster Moll; Thomas Tong, Olathe junior, as Gangster/Cab Driver, and Carissa Scroggins, Rapid City, S.D., master’s student, as Hattie/Innkeeper/Gregory.

Tickets for “Kiss Me, Kate” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. “Kiss Me, Kate” tickets are $15 for the public, $14 KU staff and senior citizens, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

For the latest information regarding parking and access to Murphy Hall, visit kutheatre.com or call the University Theatre box office. Follow KU Theatre on Twitter (@KU Theatre).