2006-06-30 / Community

RTC Set With 'Kiss Me Kate'Beginning July 7

Cast members work on the musical number, "Too Darn Hot." Cast members work on the musical number, "Too Darn Hot." At the Rockaway Theatre Company in Fort Tilden the cast of Kiss Me Kate is hard at work preparing for its July 7 opening.

Kiss Me Kate was first brought to the Broadway stage in 1947 and to Hollywood in 1953 where the popular screen version featured such musical comedy greats as Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller and Bob Fosse. The RTC will be presenting the Tony award winning revival version of the play which opened on Broadway in 1999 starring the great Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie and featuring the choreography of Kathleen Marshall, who recently won the Tony for her choreography in this year's Pajama Game revival at the Roundabout. The show is probably best known for classic Cole Porter hits like "So in Love", "Wunderbar", "Another Op'nin', Another Show", "Were Thine That Special Face" and of course, the hilarious "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".

In the RTC production the lead roles of Frederic Graham and Lilli Vanessi will be played by Max Roll and Nancy Sturgis, (Prof. Higgins and Eliza Doolitle in last season's hit production of My Fair Lady) Audience members who attended My Fair Lady in 2005 will also recognize Rob Fahn (Col. Pickering) and John Gilleece (Alfred Doolitle) as the two gangsters superimposing themselves into a classic Shakespearean production in an attempt to collect on what they believe to be Graham's gambling debt. The actual debtor, Mr. Bill Calhoun, is played by RTC veteran George Tsalikis, who recently starred as El Gallo in the 2006 season opener, The Fantasticks. Ashley Westbrook, a very talented newcomer to the R.T.C. will portray Bill's ditsy dance partner, Lois. Rounding out the cast are two terrific vocalists: Chaz Peacock, another newcomer to the stage of the Post Theatre, and Kathy Valentine, last seen here as Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors.

Director John Gilleece makes a point with the cast members. Director John Gilleece makes a point with the cast members. The entire cast and crew is very excited about this production which is directed by John Gilleece, produced by Susan Jasper and choreographed by Nicola DePierro. Music Director/Conductor Walter Birkhold and Vocal Director Richard Louis-Pierre are also thrilled to have the opportunity to work on this great Cole Porter score. According to Gilleece, "Kiss Me Kate is a definite challenge. It involves the staging of a play within a play. There is the musical version of Taming of the Shrew taking place onstage while another personal drama unfolds backstage. It requires the cast to portray two sets of characters and don two sets of costumes. There are also a great many scene changes which really keep the stage crew on their toes. Most community theatres usually opt to present Anything Goes which also boasts a great Cole Porter score but calls for much simpler shipboard staging." Costumier Peggy Vivino concurs on the complexity of the production, "There is certainly a demanding costume plot in this one. Many characters need three or four different complete medieval ensembles as well as several 1940's-look costumes." However, Vivino, who wowed audiences with her black and white couture for the Ascot Scene in last season's big musical production, seems to have the situation under control, (With a little help from her friends).

Choreographer Nicola Depierro works with the dancers. Choreographer Nicola Depierro works with the dancers. Kiss Me Kate opens, not in Venice, but at the Post Theater in Fort Tilden, on Friday, July 7, at 8:00 P.M. and continues for four consecutive weekends. Tickets are $20.00 for adults and $15.00 for seniors and children. There is a special opening weekend discount as well as discounts for groups of 20 or more. Call the RTC Hotline @ 718-8502450 for exact dates, travel directions and reservations.

Leading lady Nancy Sturgis with vocal director Richard Louis-Pierre. Leading lady Nancy Sturgis with vocal director Richard Louis-Pierre.

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