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by Kenneth Jones, Playbill

Stokes dukes it out with Mazzie on Kiss Me Kate PosterMarin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell, the Lilli and Fred of Broadway's aborning Kiss Me, Kate revival, which begins previews at the Martin Beck Theatre Oct. 25, will be joined by 26 performers, including Stanley Wayne Mathis as the "Too Darn Hot" soloist, Paul.

Mathis was Schroeder in the 1999 Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and appeared in the original cast of The Lion King.

Michael Berresse (Chicago, Fascinating Rhythm) and Amy Spanger (Chicago), as previously announced, are Bill Calhoun/Lucentio and Lois Lane/Bianca, respectively.

Official opening is Nov. 18.

The long talked-about casting of Mazzie and Mitchell (who were Tony nominated for playing Mother and Coalhouse in Ragtime) puts the performers in roles of sparring partners: In the 1948 Cole Porter musical, they play a divorced husband-wife acting team fighting both off-stage and on during a Baltimore tryout for a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. They also sing in the roles of Katharine and Petruchio.

Exploiting the aggressive nature of the lead roles, the ad campaign has a boxing theme. A print brochure is a boxing poster that cries, "The Season's Main Event!" with "Brian Stokes Mitchell Vs. Marin Mazzie" in "The Musical Comedy Knockout." Mitchell and Mazzie are seen in boxing gloves.

Director Michael Blakemore is interpolating one number not in the Broadway original: "From This Moment On," cut from Porter's Out of This World (1950) but used in the MGM film version of Kiss Me, Kate (danced Ann Miller, Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse), is now part of the revival, according to a brochure distributed by the producers.

The upcoming cast also includes John Horton (Harry Trevor), Adrian Lenox (Hattie), Lee Wilkof (First Man), Michael Mulheren (Second Man) and Ron Holgate (Harrison Howell). Wilkof (the original Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors in New York) and Michael Mulheren (Titanic, the "Encores!" staging of Li'l Abner) play a pair of gangsters who come backstage to collect a gambling debt, and end up singing the Bowery waltz, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

Ron Holgate, the Buffalo Bill of the current Annie Get Your Gun and the original Richard Henry Lee of 1776, will play a rich sugar daddy to Spanger's Lois Lane (no relation to the "Superman" character) in Kate.

The ensemble also includes Paula Leggett Chase, Merwin Foard, Eric Michael Gillett, Patty Goble, Blake Hammond, JoAnn M. Hunter, Darren Lee, Nancy Lemenager, Michael X. Martin, Kevin Neil McCready, Carol Lee Meadows, Elizabeth Mills, Linda Mugleston, Robert Ousley, Vince Pesce, T. Oliver Reid, Cynthia Sophiea and Jerome Vivona.

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Producers Roger Berlind and Roger Horchow are behind the production, directed by Michael Blakemore and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.

Blakemore's musical projects have included The Life and City of Angels. He also directed Noises Off, Joe Egg and Lettice & Lovage for Broadway and Death Defying Acts Off Broadway.

Marshall is known as artistic director of the popular "Encores!" musical theatre concert series. In February 1999, she staged Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms for "Encores!"

On Broadway, Marshall choreographed 1776 and Swinging on a Star.

Designers are Robin Wagner (sets), Martin Pakladeniz (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) and Tony Meola (sound). Paul Gemignani will conduct the classic score.

Kiss Me, Kate was Porter's greatest triumph and his most fully integrated book musical, coming late in his career after hits in the 1920s and 1930s with Paris, Fifty Million Frenchmen, Jubilee and Anything Goes.

The musical tells of the tempestuous relationship between estranged Fred and Lilli, touring in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, and the secondary leads, Bill and Lois, on the rocks because of his gambling habit and her wandering eye.

The show is said to have been inspired by the contentious behavior of acting greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Songs from the score include "Why Can't You Behave?," "Wunderbar," "Another Openin', Another Show," "So in Love," "Were Thine That Special Face," "Too Darn Hot," "Where Is The Life That Late I Led?," "Always True to You in My Fashion" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

The 1953 film version interpolated the song, "From This Moment On," cut from Porter's Out of This World. Another cut song, "We Shall Never Be Younger," has found life in recordings, in cabarets and in the revue, Cole.

Several years ago, John McGlinn conducted a studio cast and recorded the entire score -- including such cut material as "What Does Your Servant Dream About?," "I'm Afraid, Sweetheart, I Love You," "We Shall Never Be Younger," "If Ever Married I'm" and "A Woman's Career" -- for a two-disc release on the EMI/Angel label.

-- By Kenneth Jones

 

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