REVIEW: Kiss Me, Kate at Chichester Festival Theatre until September 1

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ANY show that combines Shakespeare with the glamour of America in the 1950s gets my applause.

Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Kiss Me, Kate, in which a theatrical troupe is presenting Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, was everything I had hoped it would be – and more.

Featuring music and lyrics by Cole Porter, it’s a show-within-a-show that seamlessly moves from 1950s Baltimore to Shakespeare’s Verona with energetic dance routines and mesmerizing set design.

Kiss me, Kate, tells the story of actors Fred Graham and his former wife, Lilli Vanessi. The feelings they still share for each other offstage intertwine with the onstage tale of Shakespeare’s Kate, the shrew, and Petruchio.

Add two gangsters with gambling debts to collect from Bill Calhoun, played by toe-tapping Hollywood star Adam Garcia, and you have the perfect combination of comedy and charm.

As with every Chichester production, I never fail to be impressed by the imaginative use of staging and props. Boxes of fabric were quickly pinned to the stage to create beautiful scarf-like backdrops, with the final scene featuring an incredible blossoming tree, which drew an applause of its own.

Hannah Waddingham, as Lilli and Kate, was the true star of the show. With a powerful, almost operatic, singing voice, and a great command of the stage – the scenes she played alone were among the best.

The other triumphs were a sizzling performance of Too Darn Hot, which opened the second half, and gorgeous costumes throughout, such as Lilli’s cerulean blue silk robe, worn in her dressing room, and beautiful Elizabethan-style monochrome gowns, with flashes of colour on the petticoats.

The musical, which transfers to the Old Vic in November, will surely be another hit for CFT.

Until September 1.

Tickets available from www.cft.org.uk