KISS ME KATE | London, Coliseum

Opera North’s celebrated touring production of Cole Porter’s 1948 Broadway classic has hit the West End’s largest theatre, with a full orchestra and gigantic chorus. Musicals today are almost never given this full-budget treatment, but conductor James Holmes lets Porter’s toe-tapping score let rip like you’ve never heard it before.

The highlight has to be Zoe Rainey’s ballistic “Always True To You In My Fashion” as Lois Lane (not Superman) in the second half, with three applause cues. Alan Burkitt’s wild, percussive tap dance through “Bianca”, as Bill Calhoun, is another showstopper. Then again, there is nothing like the rare treat of hearing the gigantic Opera North chorus belt out “Another Op’nin, Another Show”.

Jo Davies’ direction is very faithful to the period, retaining certain formal features like vaudevillian action in front of the curtain, laboured playoffs and an entire reprise of the act one finale at the top of act two, which comes across as slightly alien to a London audience, seven decades later. The flat-pack set (Colin Richmond) has been designed for a world tour, but feels slightly swamped on the Coliseum’s gigantic stage.

Musicals of this period, fighting to keep the old “stop the story, sing a song” format in the wake of the new, modern “musical play” format, always feel a bit old-fashioned to a modern audience. But if you’re going to chase the curio factor, you’ve got to do it fast and funny, with a full orchestra and a phenomenal cast. A real treat.

Playing in London until 30 June 2018. £10 day seats are available.

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