The Seagle Music Colony opened its 97th season Thursday night with a rambunctious production of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate.” It was a challenging choice.
The production is really a show within a show. A divorced couple, each secretly still having feelings for the other, are starring in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” So imagine the scene and costume changes and the huge cast that in this case numbers more than 30 singers. And because this is a musical, there are the production numbers with dancing, lots of dialogue and lots of running around.
The cast was up for it, although some clearly had more of a feel for musical theater than others. Those who got to sing a solo showed off good chops and kept their operatic overtones absent. They had a lot to do.
‘Kiss Me Kate’
WHERE: Oscar Seagle Memorial Theater, 999 Charley Hill Road, Schroon Lake
WHEN: Sold-out today; 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $30; $20 children
MORE INFO: 532-7875, seaglecolony.org
Baritone Michael Hewitt, as the top guy both “offstage” and in the Shakespeare play, sported the sly smile, which brought guffaws from the sold-out audience. His voice as Fred Graham/Petruchio was rich and lacked a strong top range, but he sold his songs with humor and conviction.
The chemistry was good with soprano Maren Weinberger, his Kate and ex-wife Lilli. Their “fights” and Weinberger’s face convinced, but it was her soaring voice especially in that marvelous Porter song “So in Love” that spellbound. She created an atmosphere of longing that momentarily stopped the show.
Mezzo-soprano Annalize Sussman as Lois and baritone Jesus Murillo as her slightly ne’er-do-well boyfriend Bill provided the comedy and both played those lines and moves up — especially Sussman, who added a Brooklyn accent and a few Marilyn Monroe-esque moves to her dancing. Murillo seemed especially comfortable in the milieu and looked like he could do more with musical comedy.
The huge chorus was exuberant. Their production number of “Too Darn Hot” in Act 2 was fabulous. The 1999 revival of the show gave the General, who was Lilli’s boyfriend, a song to sing: “I Get a Kick out of You” from Porter’s “Anything Goes” (1934). Baritone Gage Charles knocked out his lines and the song with precision and all the right inflections. His grasp of the idiom was superb. It was as if he’d always sung Porter.
As for working with such a limited stage space, the Colony is nothing if not versatile and infinitely creative. Director Heidi Lauren Duke made her blockings of the groups look realistic. Action was fast but will get tighter in the subsequent performances. Duke also provided some decent Broadway-style hoofing for the singers, who responded with enthusiasm.
Richard Kagey, a 48-year Colony veteran and set designer nonpareil, did his magic again with colorful sets that worked. His nicely painted scrims had great atmosphere. Costumes by Missy West in a warm palette kept to the 1940s period — the musical premiered in 1948 and was set in that era.
And the two pianists — Richard Williams and Jody Schum — kept the pace moving and provided all the support that was needed.