6-10 March 2018 Hertford Theatre
Cole Porter and Bella and Samuel Spewack's retelling of The Taming of the Shrew is one of Broadway's finest. The show boasts some classic musical numbers like I Hate Men and Brush Up Your Shakespeare that have Porter's imitable wit and style stamped on them. The score brilliantly
borrows from Shakespeare's original, adding to its flair. The show is essentially a play within a play, following a troupe of actors preparing for a performance of Bard's work. The lead actors who're tempestuous relationship off stage leads to some hilarious onstage follies. Of course much of the material is of its time and essentially not PC, but still, it carries with it a charm in the way that the Carry On films or Calamity Jane does. Tracey Gwynne as the feisty and furious (most of the time) Hollywood star Lili Vanessi/Katherine is hugely charismatic and does justice to the vocal and physical demands of the part. Philip Cable as her ex-husband Fred Graham matches her headstrong arrogance tenfold. Both share many of the shows key moments, and their love/ hate chemistry is played to great effect. The show's other lovers, Lois/ Bianca (Natasha Easton) and Bill/ Lucentio (Stephen Wiley) are the epitome of a 'modern romance' (by 1950s standards anyway). Natasha Easton channels Lois' bubbling undercurrent of loose morals and a hint of traditional values is certainly a highlight.
The two gangsters on Graham's tail for money pretty much steal the show in every production, they also get the best song. Brush Up Your Shakespeare is one of Porter's finest, containing double entendres galore and cramming as many Shakespeare references into the space of a few minutes as possible. One of Ware Operatic's biggest strengths is in its ensemble: they produce an incredible choral sound that would easily rival the West End for tonality.
Linda Dyne's direction is careful not to overplay the more theatrical moments in the show so that they become farcical. The Shakespearean sections are not overcooked either and easily retain their humour. David Barton's choreography also stands out in the show offering a mix of tap, traditional and jazz that suits the score's cross-genre flavour.
Ware Operatic celebrate their 50 years next year and have built their reputation on staging top quality productions. With strong principals and a superb ensemble, these versatile players are certainly one of the best amateur musical companies in the county.