The backstage of a Baltimore theater is buzzing with Shakespearean actors and starlets waiting to make their big break on the stage. However, underneath it all, there is a love story rekindling between the two main characters. Fall in love again at Herndon High School’s “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Based on Shakespeare’s witty romantic comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Kiss Me, Kate” reimagines the love story as a sassy musical set in 1940s Baltimore. Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham are two former lovers, now reunited in a staging of “The Taming of the Shrew”. Since their divorce, Vanessi has become a darling of the silver screen, and Grahamd produces shows at the Baltimore playhouse. While the two feud onstage as Katharine and Petruchio, their personal vendettas closely mirror the play. Graham must face Vanessi’s new fiancee, a pair of hilarious gangsters, and his own past mistakes to earn her love again.

The sets of “Kiss Me, Kate” masterfully differentiated between the rolling hills of Italy and the bustling backstage of the playhouse, thanks to the work of Jefferson Escobar-Rivera, Henry Collins, Charly Olsen, and Andrew Landrum. The dressing rooms of the two main characters were incredibly detailed, featuring two hand painted gilded wallpapers, full vanities, and even mounted taxidermy. “The Taming of the Shrew” scenes took place at a stucco villa alive with greenery. Despite having to transition between two vastly different settings, the “Kiss Me, Kate” run crew moved these pieces so quickly and precisely that you could miss them in the blink of an eye. Whether it was the technicolor rainbow washes from the Act One Finale or the marquee lights and dancing pink and yellow spots from Brush Up Your Shakespeare, the lights by Emmy Tublin and Chloe Thompson dazzled the audience with color.

Hope Hill portrayed Vanessi with unrelenting poise and maturity. Hill’s sassy energy radiated throughout every scene and number. Hill delivered resonant and operatic vocals in every number, whether it was a heartfelt duet like Wunderbar or captivating solos like So in Love. Hill’s fiery spirit became enhanced in numbers like “I Hate Men,” where Vanessi’s rages were punctuated by percussion from the orchestra. The student orchestra brought a big brass sound for flashy numbers like “Too Darn Hot.” “Too Darn Hot” also featured jazzy dance and vocal solos from Ethan Hardy, who played Graham’s valet, Paul. Hardy captured the hearts of the audience with suave moves and brassy vocals. The ensemble joined Paul in the fun with cabaret-style dance that was influenced by the 1940s era. 

One pair that was an instant hit with the audience was Andrew Landrum and Bo Chatterjee as the gangsters. In every scene, the gangsters were playing off each other, whether they were messing with Graham’s makeup or singing into guns like makeshift microphones. This dynamic duo had everyone rolling with laughter during their big number, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” a vaudeville-esque performance in their Baltimore accents. The accents and dialects in the show were coached by student assistant director Jenna Ainge. Ainge’s coaching also surfaced in Chloe Brokesh’s performance as the flirtatious Lois Lane. Brokesh was a real crooner in numbers like “Why Can’t You Behave” and charmed the audience with lilting vocals.

“Kiss Me, Kate” packed in everything from powerhouse numbers with their big brass band, to heartfelt love songs from Graham and Vanessi to comedic gangsters and lover’s quarrels. Herndon High School delivered a beautifully cinematic show with powerful performances. When the curtain falls, you too will have fallen in love with “Kiss Me, Kate”.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.