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Spiced up for a modern audience but still making use of all the classic songs, Kiss Me Kate starring Davis Gaines is continuous laughs and two hours of toe tapping fun.

Starring as the star-crossed lovers, Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate, are Davis Gaines (credits including being LA’s longest running Phantom of the Opera, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, and the title character in Man of La Mancha) and Victoria Strong (credits include Reprise’s Carousel as Nettie Fowler). Supporting cast includes: Reba Buhr (DCA’s Aladdin) as Lois/Bianca, Scott Reardon as Bill/Lucentio and standout Tom McMahon as First Man. They are supported by an energetic and well-voiced ensemble.

Vocally the cast is top notch.

Davis Gaines in KISS ME KATE
Davis Gaines in KISS ME KATE

Davis Gaines (Fred/Petruchio) has not lost any of his vocal prowess. I have had the pleasure of seeing him in a handful of LA performances, own the DVD of San Francisco’s Sweeney Todd in Concert and have a copy of his album, Against the Tide, and had the pleasure of being his presenter escort at the LA Ovation Awards a few years past so I can testify he is as much a sweetheart offstage as he is a powerhouse star on stage.  His comedic numbers in Kiss Me Kate appeared effortless and his rich rendition of So In Love is destined to make many men and women melt like butter.

Victoria Strong (Lilli/Kate) has a heavenly soprano voice. Sitting towards the front of the orchestra section at the Fred Kavli Theatre, I quite a few times found myself wondering if she even needed her microphone since her voice was so powerful.  She held her own in the show and especially excelled in I Hate Men and I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.

Reba Buhr and Scott Reardon as the supporting couple were both easy on the eyes and well voiced.  Buhr’s version of Always True to You in My Fashion and Reardon’s Bianca are memorable.

Of all the supporting cast, Tom McMahon (Man #1) was the ultimate scene stealer with his excellent comedic timing, fabulous one liners and second act duet, Brushing Up Your Shakespeare.

Lackluster Dancing

Unfortunately, anyone who’s seen the 1953 film version, the 2003 Great Performance taping or a well choreographed production will find the dancing to be lacking in this production so key dance numbers such as Another Openin’, Another Show and Tom, Dick or Harry and Too Darn Hot and We Sing of Love left me wanting more. Of all the dance numbers, Too Darn Hot featuring Lamont Whitaker (Paul) was the most entertaining.

Is Kiss Me Kate Family Appropriate?

I know that many of my readers are those with young families and I would caution you to not expect a PG rated family friendly show.  Remember that in 1953 when the film came out starring Howard Keel it was considered the most racy of Cole Porter’s works. The show has been modernized for its current audience and adult humor is predominate throughout. I would say leave home any pre-teen children or better yet just make it a fun night out with your significant other.

* * *

Kiss Me Kate opens tonight at the Fred Kavli Theatre for only nine performances so grab your tickets now because you will not want to miss the classic show’s Thousand Oaks debut, 60 years after the famous technicolor film was released.

Cabrillo Music Theatre
18-27 October 2013*
Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

Parking Structure: $8.00 per car (cash only)

*There will be a talkback after the matinee performance on 10/19 and an ASL-interpreted performance on 10/25.

Let me know if you go to see the show! I’d love to hear your thoughts too. And big thanks again to Abigail Herman (ensemble) for getting me on the list last night. You were a highlight amongst the ensemble with your featured moments.