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It helps to recall that good farce is always knockabout, regardless of gender; it’s a pleasure to roar at suffering that is big and fake and somebody else’s.“Kiss Me, Kate” is cleverly constructed to provide that pleasure squared. O’Hara) and Fred (Will Chase) clearly belong together, if only they could stop fighting long enough to notice.Nowadays, dating apps have an important role in the love relationships of many people.They have weaseled their way into our daily lives without us even realizing it.But the revisions made for the current production are more sensitively achieved.In the simplest, a framing device invoking the ghostliness of the empty stage establishes the show as a theatrical throwback.
(Amanda Green is credited with “additional material.”) Now it’s “people” who are so simple, and not just women but all lovers who must learn subservience. They not only reorient the story as a warning to all sexes, but also provide a workaround for a musical that our cancel culture seemed ready to throw on the bonfire of the inanities.
They may have lived in unenlightened times, but the men and women behind “Kiss Me, Kate” still knew plenty about the compromises of marriage.
Take Cole Porter, who wrote the 1948 musical’s peerlessly witty songs.
You could even count Lilli and Fred, the show’s lead characters: flamboyant exes who star as Katharine and Petruchio in a musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew.” They are named for the Lunts, Lynn and Alfred, married actors who made Broadway meals of the same Shakespearean roles, catfighting onstage and off. In one of the world’s great exit lines he willed his wife his second-best bed.
I raise all this marital prehistory not to excuse the elements of the original “Kiss Me, Kate” that rankle our sensibilities today — its gender stereotypes and wife-slapping argument for womanly submission — but to suggest how the latest Broadway revival, which opened on Thursday in a production starring the sublime Kelli O’Hara, could be so enjoyable anyway.
Her Lilli, more refined and less broadly comic than some, is a haughty diva who must learn humility, not because she’s a woman but because she’s too proud.