Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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‘Shrew: The Musical’
Playing at Georgia Shakespeare

2010 July 2


If you have seen “Kiss Me Kate,” you may wonder why you should see Georgia Shakespeare’s “Shrew: The Musical.”

Don’t wonder. Just see it.

I know you’re thinking, “What could best the Tony Award-winning production by Cole Porter?”

Quite possibly the script and lyrics of John R. Briggs and original music arrangements of Dennis West.

Sure, both shows are similar takeoffs of “Taming of the Shrew.” But Briggs, who says he has never seen “Kiss Me Kate,” writes in the program notes that his version is different because it takes place in Miami and is a musical adaption of Shakespeare’s play within a play, unlike Porter’s production, which is about a theater troupe performing “Taming of the Shrew” and the action that takes place behind the scenes.

“Shrew: The Musical” basically sticks to Shakespeare’s story. Bianca (Ann Marie Gideon), has just become of age to wed. But her wealthy father, Baptista (Allen O’Reilly), declares that no one may wed her until her older, raucous sister Kate (Park Krausen) is first married.

While suitors vie for Bianca’s attention, no one courts Kate. That is until Petruchio (Joe Knezevich) comes to town to find a woman whose hand in marriage will bring him a fortune. No matter that the two quarrel incessantly and she wants nothing to do with him, the two wed.

“Shrew: The Musical” employs modern language that is simple to understand. The show recalls life and characters from decades gone by and musicals like “No, No, Nanette” and “Guys and Dolls.” Damon Runyon-type characters with New York and Cuban dialects dress in Sinatra-style fedoras and Gatsy-era fashions, and bring back Vaudeville and the jazz era with brief imitations of Durante, Groucho and Sinatra.

Briggs says he and West wrote the music as an homage to the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and Fats Waller. One tune has a swinging Stray Cats flair to it, and one is a celebratory gospel number. The music and script are tight and full of life.

While the singing and acting are good, the dancing falls short. The performers know the steps but lack the energy that should encompass them. The music is fiery and Jen MacQueen’s choreography is fine. If the dancers would spit fire when they danced, this show would be more than smoking. It would be a blaze.

“Shrew: The Musical” runs in rep with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “King Lear” at Georgia Shakespeare through August 6.

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