[All imagery credited to Alastair Muir]
I’ve really got a taste recently for jazz-style musical theatre, following last year’s resounding successes of Irving Berlin’s Top Hat at the Leeds Grand Theatre and the same composer’s White Christmas – fantastic festive fun at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Then there was the tour of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre that was unfortunately (and I thought unfairly) cut short. No chance of such a demise for Opera North’s immaculate production of Kiss Me, Kate. It opens up the season with the red carpet out on press night for an evening of gleeful glamour.
To me this is really a labour of love to review with the welcome return of Tiffany Graves as Lois Lane/Bianca, following her scorchingly sexy role as Swedish sexpot Ulla in The Producers. Graves has such a dynamic stage presence she simply demands your attention – both romantic and comic – and this is a vocal performance par excellence. She captures all the fun and frolics of her character with aplomb (as I stated previously she’s no dumb blonde) and delivers her lines with an astute wit and a perfect sense of the absurdity of it all.
The show benefits from an ensemble performance that is both joyous and madcap, allowing slapstick and some seriously silly choreography to much hilarity. The combination of spectacle and romance wins over both our eyes and hearts. Musically this is technically brilliant flawless stuff, under the masterful baton of David Charles Abell. Whilst the set design by Colin Richmond seamlessly shift between on-stage and off-stage action for the show-within-a-show and add colour and further hilarity in his sumptuous costumes.
Just as they did with Carousel, this Opera North night out brings us a little bit of everything: there are serious messages on the nature of love and marriage beneath the ribald comedy; thrilling all-singing all-dancing show-stopping numbers. And the sheer impact of its stylised form that complements its chaotic content that ends in fairy tale style. Now we hold our breath for the rest of the Opera North season.
Kiss Me, Kate runs at Leeds Grand Theatre on 3, 21, 30, 31 October – don’t miss it! Book your tickets here.