In the canon of musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate is the golden standard. There's its endlessly clever score by Cole Porter; its leading roles, perfect for actors trained in elegantly chewing scenery while singing beautifully; and its deliciously farcical show-within-a-show plot, in which the warring ex-lovers (and ultra-dramatic stage stars) Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi work out their real-life frustrations in a musical production of The Taming of the Shrew (in which they play Petruchio and Katherine).
It's also an entertaining -- and, occasionally, uncomfortable -- treatment of gender politics, subtly updated for the current political moment in an excellent new production now playing at Broadway's Studio 54 and nominated for four Tony awards, including best revival of a musical and best performance by an actress in a leading role for Kelli O'Hara. In this week's episode of the Billboard on Broadway podcast, O'Hara (Lilli/Katharine) and co-stars Will Chase (Fred/Petruchio) and Corbin Bleu (Bill Calhoun) chat about approaching this classic show in a modern moment.
"I think there's something still wonderful about it to find out and to investigate [in the show], change if we need to, tweak if we need to, but not whitewash," says Chase of joining the production. "That's certainly why I said yes." As O'Hara explains, she was attracted by the opportunity to play out a great comedy in a moment when audiences need it -- as well as digging into the ways in which her role could be updated. "It feels good to just be laughing -- and also to highlight some grand misogyny, and poke fun at it, and also give women some backbone," she says.