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WHAT’S UP BROADWAY FANS?! Broadway’s biggest night is right around the corner and just 36 DAYS AWAY. However, to keep us entertained till The 74th Annual Tony Awards and celebrating Live Theater’s return, we at New York Broadway Tours are continuing to serenade you every morning with more of your favorite iconic toe tapping performances from previous telecasts on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready for another Broadway showstopper?
At # 36 on our countdown, we take you on and off stage at a Theater in Baltimore back in the year 1948. There, craziness is happening behind the scenes at a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW including the show’s narcissistic director and leading man forced to work with his former temperamental movie star ex-wife. This is the madap play-within-a-play musical comedy KISS ME KATE. The show features a score by *Cole Porter* along with a book co-written by Samuel and Bella Spewack.
From the most recent 2019 telecast (prior before COVID-19), Corbin Bleu as “Bill Calhoun” and the cast of that year’s recent Roundabout Theatre Company revival perform the Act 2 showstopper TOO DARN HOT. We are obsessed and can’t stop RAVING over the choreography from this performance.
KISS ME KATE was first conceived by rising Broadway producer Arnold Saint-Subber who witnessed the crazy on and off stage fights of real life husband-and-wife actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne during a 1935 production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. He asked book writers Samuel and Bella Spewacks (undergoing their own marital woes at the time) to write the script. Bella in turn enlisted Cole Porter to do the music and lyrics.
Following a 3 1/2 week tryout in Philadelphia, the original production opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre in 1948 running for 1,077 performances. Under the direction of John C. Wilson and choreography by Hanya Holm, the cast starred….
Alfred Drake (later Keith Andes, Ted Scott, and Robert Wright) as “Fred Graham”,
Patricia Morison (later Anne Jeffreys and Holly Harris) as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Harold Lang (later Danny Daniels and Marc Platt) as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Lisa Kirk (later Betty Anne Groove) as “Lois Lane”.
The show won all 5 of it’s 1949 Tony Awards including becoming the first Broadway show ever to win for the big category that today we all look forward to each year….. BEST MUSICAL.
Following the success of the original production, the show went on to make audiences laugh in London’s West End, Australia, and around the world becoming an instant hit. The show would late be revived twice on Broadway.
The first Broadway revival happened in 1952 playing just 8 performances at the Broadway Theatre. Under the direction of John C. Wilson and choreography by Hanya Holm once again, the cast was led by….
Robert Wright as “Fred Graham”,
Holly Harris as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Frank Derbas as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Marilyn Day as “Lois Lane”.
The production did not receive any Tony Awards that year.
The 3rd Broadway revival happened in 1999 at the Martin Beck Theatre (currently the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) running for a total of 28 previews and 881 regular performances. Under the direction of Michael Blakemore and choreographed by both Kathleen Marshall and Rob Ashford, the cast was led by…
Brian Stokes Mitchell (later Merwin Foard and Burke Moses) as “Fred Graham”,
the late Marin Mazzie (later Carolee Carmello) as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Michael Berresse (later Kevin Neil McCready and David Elder) as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Amy Spanger (later Janine LaManna and Joann M Hunter) as “Lois Lane”.
This revival was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2000 winning 5 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL and BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (for Brian Stokes Mitchell).
Most recently in 2019, KISS ME KATE returned to Broadway for a critically acclaimed production by Roundabout Theatre Company. It ran for a strictly limited engagement of 30 previews and 125 regular performances at Studio 54. Under the direction of Scott Ellis and choreography by Warren Carlyle, that recent production was led by…
Will Chase as “Fred Graham”,
Kelli O’Hara as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Corbin Bleu as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Stephanie Styles as “Lois Lane”.
The Roundabout revival was nominated for 4 Tony Awards including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL. However, it lost all the categories.
In addition to its triumph on stage, KISS ME KATE was a smash hit on the big screen numerous times.
The original film version of KISS ME KATE was released in 1953 from MGM. Under the direction of George Sidney, the cast featured…
Howard Keel as “Fred Graham”,
Kathryn Grayson as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Tommy Rall as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Ann Miller as “Lois Lane”.
In addition, there were 5 TV productions of the musical. The first version was released in 1958 from Hallmark. Under the direction of George Schafer, the cast featured…
Alfred Drake reprising his original Broadway role of “Fred Graham”,
Patricia Morrison reprising her original Broadway performance as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Bill Hayes as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Julie Wilson as “Lois Lane”.
In 1964, a 2nd live TV presentation was made for BBC. Under the direction of David Askey, the cast featured…
Howard Keel reprising his film role of “Fred Graham”,
Patricia Morrison reprising her original Broadway performance once again as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Irving Davies as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Millicent Martin as “Lois Lane”.
The 3rd TV production was released for ABC in 1968. Under the direction of Paul Bogart, this cast was led by…
ROBERT GOULET as “Fred Graham”,
Carol Lawrence as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Michael Callan as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Jessica Walter as “Lois Lane”.
In 2003, PBS‘ Award winning series Great Performances released a filmed performance of the London company of the 1999 Broadway revival which is still available today on DVD and Blu-Ray. Under the direction of Michael Blakemore and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and Rob Ashford, the cast was led by…
Brent Barrett as “Fred Graham”,
Rachel Yorke as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Michael Berresse reprising his 1999 Broadway performance off “Bill “Calhoun”,
and
Nancy Anderson as “Lois Lane”.
The most recent filmed presentation of KISS ME KATE happened in 2014 for BBC. This version was a filmed performance of a concert adaptation of the show for the PROMS series at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Under the direction of Shaun Kerrison, the cast featured…
Ben Davis as “Fred Graham”,
Alexandra Silber as “Lilli Vanessi”,
Tony Yazbeck as “Bill Calhoun”,
and
Louise Dearman as “Lois Lane”.
KISS ME KATE is now a popular show today still performed in Schools, Community Theaters, Regional Theaters, and even Opera houses.
Isn’t this such a WUNDERBAR of a show?
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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