SU Drama kicks off season with ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

KISS ME, KATE

Jon Paul Roby leads the cast in ‘Too Darn Hot’

Who: Syracuse University Drama

Where: Archibold Theatre – 820 E. Genesee St. Syracuse, NY

When: Oct. 2-10

Tickets: $17-$19

Kiss Me, Kate,” Cole Porter’s classic musical performed by SU Drama is an upbeat and bouncy production by nature. However, without the proper casting the show would be dull and unpleasant.

SU Drama managed the latter and cast each character to perfection.

Each actor had a vibrant and energetic personality that was contagious.  The Syracuse University student actors brought their characters to life and created a fun and entertaining show.

The shining star was Charity Van Tassel playing Lois Lane/Bianca. Two of Van Tassel’s main numbers, “Tom, Dick or Harry” and “Always True to You in My Fashion,” were executed impeccably. Laughs accompanied Lois’ ditzy demeanor, while her singing was on key and just right for the part.

Van Tassel’s supporting man, Brian Sandstrom (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio), was equally as enticing and together they created a picturesque couple and admirable singing duo.

KISS ME, KATE

Charity Van Tassel performs as Lois Lane/Bianca

The challenge with a show like this, a musical within a musical, is that the four leading actors each play two characters. “Kiss Me, Kate” surrounds four actors (Lilli Vanessi, Fred Graham, Lois and Bill) who star in a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” It takes place both on stage of “The Taming of the Shrew” and behind the scenes of the opening night show. The actors in “Kiss Me, Kate” must play two believable characters, an actor and an actor that is acting as another character.

It is quite the feat, but SU Drama did not disappoint.

Jodi Snyder was commendable in her role as Lilli/Katharine and her chemistry with her supporting leading man, Ezekiel Edmonds (Fred/Petruchio), attested to the well cast production. One thing that kept Snyder from stealing the show, though, was the costume designer’s inability to properly dress her.  Most of Snyder’s costumes did not fit well and
appeared matronly compared to the other women’s more seductive and young looks.

Now, this could simply be a conscious decision to show Lilli’s age as opposed to Lois’, but even the costumes for Katharine aged her so much that she appeared to not fit in with the cast at all.

Other notable performances included Adam Segrave and Richard Westfahl as First Man and Second Man. The two mobsters worked well together in selling their tough yet comedic characters.

It was indeed remarkable that all of the actors could, of course, act and sing, but also dance. This was demonstrated in the Act II opening number, “Too Darn Hot.” Paul, played by Jon Paul Roby, was exceedingly impressive at the helm of this performance. Perfectly in sync, most of the cast appeared to have dance training prior to the show as the lifts, spins and jumps mirrored those of “West Side Story’s” well-known dance sequences.

A fun and compelling show, Kiss Me, Kate closed Saturday. By the looks of this season opener, though, SU Drama has much more excitement and amazing performances in the works.

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