1955 - 1956
Kiss Me, Kate
Cole Porter was once asked who had written "Some Enchanted Evening". "Rodgers and Hammerstein," he replied, "if you can imagine it taking two people to write a song!" This was the essence of Cole Porter: witty, a little cynical but a master of the chic cocktail party retort and the irreverant sophisticated lyric. In the 1930s he attempted to perpetuate the glamour and sophistication of the twenties. When other Broadway writers were reacting to the Depression and incorporating social comment in their shows, Porter's response was to set "Anything Goes" (1934) on a luxurious cruise ship. It was one of his most successful productions and continues to enjoy numerous revivals. But during the mid-forties, he had three failures in a row. Thus, when Bella Spewack came to him with the idea for "Kiss Me, Kate", his initial response was "I don't think I could do it". He was finally convinced and went on to produce not only his most memorable score but his longest-running hit (1077 performances). The idea for the show began germinating in 1935 when producer Saint Subber, then a stagehand for the Theatre Guild's production of "The Taming Of The Shrew", became aware that its stars, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, quarreled in private almost as much as did the characters they were portraying in the play. "Kiss Me, Kate" takes place backstage and onstage at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore, from five P.M. to midnight during one day of a tryout of a musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew". In the plot, egotistical actor-producer Fred Graham and his temperamental co-star and ex-wife, Lille Vanessi, fight and make up and eventually demonstrate their enduring affection for each other -- just like Shakespeare's Petruchio and Kate. A subplot involves Lois Lane, whose romance with actor Bill Calhoun is complicated by Bill's weakness for gambling. The personal interrelationships of these actors make for delightful fun and are eventually resolved during the somewhat chaotic opening night performance of the Shakespeare classic.