Student Musical Theater: Kiss Me, Kate Review


Courtesy of @novavsmt

Students put on “Kiss Me Kate” for the fall musical.

Sofia Krzewicki, Staff Writer

The Villanova Student Musical Theater production of “Kiss Me, Kate” this past weekend was Shakespeare like never seen before. A musical comedy at its core, “Kiss Me, Kate” capitalizes on the creative concept of a show-within-a-show. Not only is the audience transported to post-war America, watching as tensions rise between the recently divorced director and leading man, Fred Graham, and leading lady Lilli Vanessi, but also to the Renaissance—Padua and the countryside of Verona—as Baptista Minola attempts to find a husband for his daughter, the shrewish Kate. 


What is masked as a story of ex-lovers finding their way back to each other while playing opposite each other in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” is in actuality an exploration of relationships: love, marriage and all the things in between. 


The musical focuses not only on Fred and Lilli, but also Bill and Lois, whose relationship is also impacted by their on and off-stage antics. Seniors Olivia Pistella (Lois Lane/Bianca) and Aidan Fecko (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio) had playful chemistry. In their respective solos, both dazzled. Pistella explored the subtle sensuality of “Always True to You in My Fashion” as a talented dancer, capturing the glamor of the Hollywood starlets of the Golden Age, and Fecko’s enthusiasm was addictive, as well as his tap solo in “Bianca,” which deserved the sustaining applause. 


The audience fell in love with senior Katherine Moffa (Lilli Venessi/Kate) and sophomore Matthew Sabol (Fred Graham/Petruchio) as they waited for Lilli and Fred to fall in love with each other. Moffa and Sabol explore passion and longing in their duet, “Wunderbar.” The waltz transports all into a dream-like trance, a world void of disdain and animosity towards one another, a perfect night for love. 


“Kiss Me, Kate” was not absent from wild, theatrical dance numbers and breaks. However, the ensemble hit their stride in “Too Darn Hot,” the opening number in Act II. The number brought the energy that lasted until the final curtain, transporting the audience back in time. The melodies and dance combos were reminiscent of “West Side Story,” another popular musical set around the same time, with the rhythmic snapping and wild high kicks. 


Credit must be given, of course, to the pit orchestra. It too was integrated into the show-within-a-show: Sabol directly interacts with them on the occasion as Fred Graham. The orchestra signaled the time travel, the transport from the audience to the late 40s with jazz undertones and then the Renaissance with the beautiful, lulling sound of the mandolin.


Although the gangsters (Amelia Morning, Jack Drennen) were introduced in Act I, providing another level of tension to an already tension-filled show, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in Act II was hilarious, eliciting well-deserved smiles and laughs from the audience. Masters of physical comedy, Morning and Drennen compel the audience to take advantage of the bard of Stratford-on-Avon. In many ways, they are much like the audience, thrown into a world of the unknown and forced to understand, assimilate, learn and enjoy. The number was the most Shakespearean aspect of “Kiss Me, Kate,” as it was a testament to his legacy as a writer for the masses, a poet for the common people. 


All’s well that ends well: in the true nature of a Shakespearean comedy, “Kiss Me, Kate” ended on a happy note, both for the characters and the audience members, who were satisfied with the performance and production they had just witnessed.