Lois Lane (Alli McGinnis) is Bianca onstage but also smitten with the rather pompous Fred. Her boyfriend Bill Calhoun (Joey Elrose) who plays Lucentio has a gambling habit and signs Fred’s name to an IOU. This comes in handy as two gangsters (Dean Ricca and Shawn Cahill) show up to collect the debt, and Fred enlists their help to keep Lilli inside the theater when she threatens to leave in the middle of a performance.
The show has a place in theater history as winning the first Tony Award for Best Musical of 1948, and it’s easy to see why. The wit Porter infuses in his score is unique, and he interweaves the ancient and modern sensibilities in such songs as “I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua,” in which Petruchio flatly states he’s out to marry for money. There is a reason the lyric “I shall not be disturbed one bit, if she be but a quarter wit” epitomizes Porter’s talent.
Director Tom Robinson guides his cast with ease and mirth. O’Neal and Cherry are delightful in resurrecting the remaining embers of their previously failed romance. Both are most appealing in comedy and song with strong presence and excellent voices. Cherry’s solo belting out the classic “I Hate Men” is a highlight.
Second leads McGinnis and Elrose provide good support, particularly when it’s revealed that Lois had a past secret wartime romance with Army hero General Harrison Howell (George Champion), who is coincidentally engaged to Lilli.
The choral cast gets a good workout from choreographer Marc Knowles. Onstage, he has the trio of Lucentio, Gremio (Drew Foronda) and Hortensio (Paul Reid) showcasing great moves as they try to persuade Bianca to marry each of them in “Tom, Dick or Harry.” The large ensemble group exhibits sultry jazz in the “Too Darn Hot” number that opens Act II in the alley outside the theater.
This is a show I’ve seen several times, both in cinematic and stage versions. It met my expectations, and I’m glad that they do it justice.
About the writer PHILLIP HAIN of Glendale has been reviewing plays for this newspaper for more than five years.