You have to wait a while for the real razzle-dazzle to kick through in Trevor Nunn's patchy production of Cole Porter's classic musical riff on 'The Taming of the Shew'. The same pacing problems that have marred much of Nunn's recent work come close to sinking this 'Kiss Me, Kate' before it leaves the starting blocks, but by the start of the second act the sheer talent on display will have swept you along with your toes tapping.
Alex Bourne is all chin and Errol Flynn charm as would-be love-rat Fred Graham, with a fabulous voice and great thigh-slapping charisma. He's a pussy cat compared to Hannah Waddingham, however – with her dazzlingly flexible vocal work and ferocious physicality, she may be one of the all-time-great Lilli Vanessis.
There's superb supporting work from David Burt and Clive Rowe, who wring every last laugh from 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare', and particularly Jason Pennycooke, who leads a storming 'Too Darn Hot' that goes off like a thermo-detonator.
Robert Jones's design is smart and sweet, with the set of 'The Taming of the Shrew' folding up from the floor like wisps of tracing paper against a great skewed proscenium arch. The costumes are also superb, all rich, monochrome tracery, with a touch of 'Alice in Wonderland' about the gangsters' pepper-pot tabards.
This plentiful joy and sparkle makes the occasional soggy patches and wool-eared comic timing all the more regrettable. While giving the big numbers his all, Nunn has failed the script quite badly. A few moments of slapstick in the play-within-the-play come off well, but the framing narrative feels yawningly drab and laconic. Like a game of musical statues, when the band stops playing, this production freezes to the spot.
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Average User Rating
5 / 5
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A genuinely rollicking, effervescent night out. I felt 100% entertained and wanting to see the show again - something I rarely say.