Kiss Me, Kate

 

M.F.A. acting students Cassandra Hackbart and Rick Mugrage as Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham star in ‘Kiss Me, Kate.’

Prepare to be humming tunes on the way home after seeing the musical "Kiss Me, Kate!" this weekend at the Creative Arts Center at West Virginia University.

The musical is a modern twist of the Shakespeare classic "The Taming of the Shrew," featuring music by Cole Porter. Known as one of the most delightful musical comedies of the American theatre, "Kiss Me, Kate!" opens Thursday evening and is playing until Sunday. The musical will be showcased in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre of the WVU Creative Arts Center.

"Kiss Me, Kate!" is a show set in the 1940s about the premiere of the musical "The Taming of the Shrew," portraying the conflict on and off stage between the show’s director, producer and star Fred Graham and his leading lady and ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi. Other conflicts between opposing sexes spiral through the plot of this musical, creating a battle of the sexes that makes the production comical. Popular songs from the production include "Too Darn Hot" and "So in Love." The original production has won a Tony Award for Best Musical and has run for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway.

Students of the West Virginia University School of Theatre and Dance have worked on production for this musical since the end of the spring semester. Everyone involved in the production is a WVU professor or student. The production crew as a whole decided on a vision and direction for the show before it was cast.

Amber Steffey, a WVU sophomore and the production stage manager for the show, is looking forward to seeing the full product come to life onstage since she has been a part of the process from day one.

"I look forward to the full product. Watching a show come together from scratch, just a script and some ideas, to a grand set, fantastic costumes and spectacular lights and sound… It’s incredible," Steffey said. "The technical elements are only thrown in the weekend before the opening, so to see the show go from an empty room to the grand spectacle that people get to come see is amazing."

The cast has conducted full-cast script readings and research on slang terms and cultural events that occurred in the 1940s and ‘50s. Cassie Hackbart, a first-year graduate student pursuing an MFA in acting, is the leading lady of the musical, otherwise known as Lilli Vanessi. Hackbart worked with a Shakespearean vocal coach who helped precisely interpret the character of Lilli through practice. Hackbart is eager about her experience with her vocal

coach.

"I feel like Shakespeare is one of my biggest challengers as an actor," Hackbart said. "To be thrown into a show with ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ written in as well was rather daunting, but having that coaching to help me interpret the Shakespearean vernacular was such a big help."

Hackbart is looking forward to presenting the Morgantown community with her very own version of Lilli Vanessi. She is following the footsteps of many famous actresses who have played the same role, but Hackbart believes none of them have had the same experience as she has, and she is enthusiastic to show that to the world.

"Audiences should expect to be sucked into the over-the-top set pieces, costumes and characters of the Shakespearean play-within-a-play, as well as the bombastic, post-World War II era of the 1940s. They should expect to be humming the catchy tunes on the way home," Hackbart

said.

Tickets can be bought at the WVU Box Office or online on Ticketmaster for $25. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Creative Arts Center. For more information, visit http://theatre.wvu.edu/our-season/kiss-me-kate.