Pucker up for UWP's production of Kiss Me Kate

June 27, 2003

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PLATTEVILLE - Kiss Me Kate, a musical comedy set against the backdrop of a present-day theatrical troupe preparing for their production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, will be performed at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Heartland Festival in July. A reunion between lead characters Fred Graham, an egotistical actor-producer, and temperamental co-star and ex-wife Lili Vanessi, seem likely until a case of mistaken identity throws Fred into some very hot water.

"The idea for Kiss Me Kate was planted in the mind of producer Saint Subber in 1935," said John Hassig, program coordinator of the Center for the Arts and Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery. "While working as a stagehand for the Theatre Guild's production of The Taming of the Shew, Subber noticed that the stars of the show, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, had a backstage relationship that was almost as stormy as the one they had onstage while portraying Shakespeare's famous quarreling couple.

"Cole Porter's brilliant score borrows freely from Shakespeare's dialogue for lyrics in musical numbers that take place 'onstage' but makes use of more modern syntax in the 'backstage' numbers."

Eve Himmelheber will direct the cast of roughly 25 performers, comprised of mostly area actors - with the exception of Fred, who will be played by Tom Weis of Delafield. Audiences will remember Tom Weis from his performance as Harold Hill in last season's production of The Music Man. Himmelheber is the assistant professor of theatre arts at the University of Arizona but originally hails from Orange County, Calif. Himmelheber is making her third appearance with the festival as director of the musical.

"Eve is simply one of the best teaching directors I have ever worked with," said Bob Demare, director of UWP choral activities and producer of the Heartland Festival. "Her work during the first two years of the festival was so positive that I was thrilled that we could hire her back."

Other key players in the production include pit conductor Barry Ellis of Platteville, set designer William Ian Auld of DeKalb, Ill., choreographer Doug Mackie of Platteville, chorusmaster Marcia Russell of Platteville, lighting designer Jason Jon Anderson of Chippewa Falls, costume designer Linda Pisano of Bloomington, Ind., and stage manager Matt Sayre of Bowling Green, Ohio.

Kiss Me Kate originally opened in 1948 and has been awarded five Tony Awards including "Best Musical," "Best Script" and "Best Score." In 1999, it enjoyed a popular revival earning an additional five awards including "Best Revival," "Best Director" and "Best Actor."

"Kiss Me Kate is considered the best of Cole Porter's long and fruitful career as a composer for musical theatre," Hassig said. "It is the only one of his musicals to exceed 1,000 performances on Broadway. It is also the only one performed around the world in over a dozen translations."

Kiss Me Kate will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 3; 3 p.m. Friday, July 4; 8 p.m. Saturday, July 5; 3 p.m. Sunday, July 6, 8 p.m. July 10-12; and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 13. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children under 18 and UWP students. Tickets can be purchased through the University Box Office, 608-342-1298. Information on other Heartland Festival performances can be obtained through the Heartland Festival website at www.uwplatt.eduhttp://reslife.saf.uwplatt.edu/finearts/heartland.

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