Any play with a supporting cast that includes tap-dancing gangsters with a fondness for Shakespeare is bound to be worth a look.
Battle of the sexes
rages on with Kate
By Stephanie Kendrick
Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" started inspiring imitation right away (contemporary dramatist John Fletcher wrote "The Woman's Prize; or The Tamer Tamed" in early the 1600s) and continues to do so (remember TV's goofy "Moonlighting"?). Feminist versions have been staged, as has at least one set in the Wild West.
But perhaps the best tribute, and certainly most hummable, is Cole Porter's "Kiss Me Kate."
The musical is chock full of Porter's most enduring songs, including "So in Love," "Too Darn Hot," "Always True to You in My Fashion," "I Hate Men" and, of course, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
"The songs never grow old. People are still singing it today," said Cathy Foy, who plays the female lead in Hawaii Pacific University's "Kiss Me Kate," which opens tomorrow.
The story doesn't seem to grow old either.
"Kiss Me Kate" is a classic battle of the sexes. Ex-spouses Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham are cast opposite each other as Kate and Petruchio in a musical titled "The Shrew." Their tempestuous "real life" relationship blends into the onstage drama.
No matter how far we think we've come in terms of relationships between the sexes, Steve Wagenseller (HPU's Petruchio) sees the play as having obvious contemporary appeal.
"Maybe we're not doing as much spanking in this particular play, but we're still trying to work it out," he said.
Wagenseller describes his relationship with wife Cheryl Bartlett, also an actor, as much more harmonious than Fred and Lilli's. "We don't quarrel and bicker the ways these guys do."
Foy admits she and husband Aaron Mahi, director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, have a sometimes chaotic relationship, despite his attempts to create calm.
"I'm probably the more tempestuous one," she said. "I'm convinced more than ever that I married the reincarnation of Ghandi. He's a very peaceful man.
"What makes a marriage work is enabling each person, your partner, to be successful in their own right and be supportive of each other in what makes you whole," said Foy.
"In order to make a marriage last it takes tremendous patience and fortitude.
"People recognize this theme as a universal theme because marriage isn't a bowl of cherries," she said.
The play makes jam of that bowl of cherries, then throws it against the wall.
"They're both egomaniacs," said Foy. But working in play rekindles Fred and Lilli's romance.
"Beneath all that lies a tremendous love for each other.
"They always manage to spoil things," said Foy. But "in the end, love conquers all."
Foy yields the role of Kate/Lilli to Tricia Marciel for the last two weeks of the five-week run. She is off to Japan Nov. 26 for a tour with Danny Kaleikini.
"(Marciel's) a wonderful singer," said Foy. "I believe she's an up-and-coming talent here in Hawaii."
For her part, Marciel is excited about the role.
"(Kate's) not your typical heroine," she said. "It's fun to play someone with spunk."
"Kiss Me Kate" is an ambitious undertaking for HPU and its intimate theater. "This is the fifth musical we're doing, but the first of the big Broadway types," said director Joyce Maltby. The music is in the hands of a four-piece orchestra led by Emmett Yoshioka.
"This is a real feel-good musical," said Foy. "(It's) guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone, and will leave you whistling or singing a tune when you leave."
What: "Kiss Me Kate"
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 4 p.m. Sundays, tomorrow through Dec. 10, except Nov. 23
Where: Hawaii Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
Tickets: $14 general, $10 senior citizens, students and military
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