RECOMMENDED Circle Theatre has found the proper stage for Kevin Bellie to stage his dance numbers in its new home in Oak Park. No more small dance numbers that held back his creative juices. In their latest production, a revival of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” with a book by Samuel and Bella Spewack based on Shakespeare’s classic love story, “The Taming of The Shrew”, Bellie let’s it all hang out as does director Bob Knuth ( who also did some clever sets). I had heard through the grapevine that they had a few opening night problems and I am glad to report, they heard what was said and have fixed the sound problems. Part of making a move to a new venue is learning how to deal with the different elements and it appears that they have done just this.
“Kiss Me Kate” is a delightful “spoof” filled with some of Porter’s magical music; “Too Darn Hot”, “So In Love”, “From This Moment on” and of course the opening number,”Another Opening Another Show” just to name a few. Two and a half joyous hours of music and comedy. This troupe continues to find young, new talent to grace its stage and they, the performers appear to be having as much fun as the audience. The “spoof” part of the show is that we are watching a company put on a new musical version of “Taming of The Shrew” that is produced and stars an actor whose ex-wife plays the lead. Fred has a rather large ego and as it turns out never stopped loving his ex. Fred is played by Andy Baldeschwiler who is a solid actor and tries hard to hit some of the difficult notes, but where he fails as a singer, he more than makes up for in his acting ability. His ex, Lillie ( played with great intensity and a marvelous voice by Jennie Sophia, a new find for this troupe and a real “keeper”, although I have the feeling other theater companies will grab her up) is engaged to an older military man , one with aspirations for the White House ( deftly handled by Noah Sullivan).
Meanwhile, aother romance is going on backstage. Lois ( the adorable Rachel Quinn who is quite the hoofer and has a solid voice) is in love with Bill Calhoun(Wes Drummond, who has the 40’s feel) a gambler while she is also having a thing with Fred, her mentor. Bill has lost some heavy money to a mobster, but signed the IOU as Fred and so two henchman show up to make sure they get the cash, but due to the errant IOU are hanging on to the wrong guy. To protect their “investment” they get involved with the show. John Roeder and Tommy Bullington take on these comic roles with great enthusiasm and verve and have a showstopping song in the second act “Brush up on Your Shakespeare”, well staged and superbly executed. Lois ( Ms Quinn also has a solid number in which she and three of the male dancer do a number that will knock your socks off” Tom,Dick or Harry”.
As I said, this is a talented cast with some marvelous dancing and Bellie really gets 110% out of his dancers. While I find the play a little long with a number or two that could probably be cut, the audience appeared to love every number and it did not appear to be a family and friends audience, just theater-goers who continue to enjoy what Circle offers them, quality theater at affordable prices in a new and comfortable theater. A tip of the hat to the ensemble, bless them, for as I always say, a musical can only work if the ensemble members plays their roles: Jonathan Altman,Jake Autizen,Julia Beck,Jennifer Bludgen,Christopher Boyd,Rachek Burt,Audrey Layne Crocker,Jon Landvick,Merrill Matheson,Elizabeth Morgan, Andriana Pachella,Gregory Payne,Joshua A Peterson, Christine Ronna,Gina Sparacino and Kirk Swank.
Patti Roeder’s costumers were stupendous. This is a small theater and they managed to have as much glitz in their costumes as a Broadway tour might present. Carolyn Brady Riley’s musical direction is sublime and the four piece orchestra made Porter’s music shine. They did not drown out the singers at all allowing us to hear every clever lyric that Porter wrote. Circle Theatre is only a short trip from the loop ( about 8 miles) and very easy to get to from all points. “Kiss Me Kate” will continue through January 30th with performances as follows:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. , Sundays at 3 p.m. ( no shows on December 24th thru January 2nd)
Tickets are $22 on Fridays and $26 on Saturday and Sunday ( I told you they were family friendly) and to make it even better, seniors and students on Saturday and Sunday pay only $24. The theater is located at 1010 West Madison ( a few blocks East of Harlem) with lots of street parking- NO METERS. To order tickets call 1-708-660-9540 or visit www.circle-theatre.org