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L.A. Beat

Lethbridge Musical Theatre brings Kiss Me Kate to the Yates

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Sometimes life imitates art, sort of. Such is the case of  Lethbridge Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” which takes the stage  at the Yates Theatre, Nov. 5-20. Kiss Me Kate is a reunion of sorts for several New West Theatre veterans who are excited to work with director Jeff Carlson again.Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter read through their lines. Photo by Richard Amery

“Usually Lethbridge Musical Theatre rehearses  for eight weeks, but I wanted to cut rehearsal time down to four or five weeks. So I called in favours from everyone I know, including my dad, ” said Carlson, whose experience directing  “Kiss Me Kate,” sort of mirrors that of the production’s protagonist, Fred Graham (played by Scott Carpenter). Fred is trying to stage a musical version of William Shakespeare's’ “Taming of the Shrew,”  which is threatened not only by the turmoils of the bitterly divorced leading man and leading lady who are performing opposite of each other as Petruccio and Katherine, but also a pair of gangsters interrupting the production to collect a gambling debt from Lucentio.

“Fred wrote a musical version  of Taming of the Shrew and calls in every favour he can including getting his ex-wife to play Kate. Then he realizes he has feelings for the leading lady who plays Bianca. That’s when the confusion starts,” Carlson described adding the play takes place in the 1950s so there are not only 1959’s costumes, but Shakespeariean costumes as well.


“To add to the insanity,  all hell breaks loose on stage during the production when the gangsters show up to break legs and collect the IOU and end up on stage. And then the leading lady quits,” he continued adding choreographer Vanessa Cowan and  vocal director Darrell Croft have been an invaluable part of pulling this production together.
“They‘ve done an amazing job,” said Carlson who  also had to cope with his election campaign in the midst of everything.

“ The biggest challenge, was at the first rehearsal at the beginning of September, only 50 per cent of the cast showed up, so I called in favours from all of my pals. Erica (Hunt) was already involved and Scott (Carpenter) agreed to do it. Fred Hillyer was a late call. Even my father is involved. He asked if I needed anything  and I said well ...  And now he’s playing Pops, the stage manager. It’s come together well considering we open in 10 days (from the time of the interview),” he continued adding there are 25 people on stage including nine leading roles and a 15 person chorus.

The set is pretty sparse, with a painted cityscape of Verona across the back of the stage and a couple stand alone set pieces.

“We hope the scene changes go lightning fast, lights go down, and then up with no breaks,” he said.
Scott Carpenter, who is playing  both Fred and Petruccio, is glad to be able to act in “Shakespeare-light.”

Erica Hunt, Kyle Oliver, Darryl Croft and  Carrie Proctor rehears a musical number. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’m excited  to  have the opportunity to act in  some light Shakespeare,” Carpenter said.
Meanwhile Hunt, who plays  both Lois and Bianca, is just excited to  work with Jeff Carlson again.
“I’ve done a lot of musical revues, but never  done an actual musical before,” she said.
 On the other hand, Brenda Forrest, who plays Lily Vanesse and Katherine,  has done a lot of musicals, including several with Lethbridge Musical Theatre, but has never had the opportunity to work with Carlson before.

“I’ve seen Kiss Me Kate before in Saskatoon,” she observed adding the biggest challenge of being part of the production  is juggling rehearsals with being a full time mother.
“I usually play nice characters,” said Forrest who  enjoyed exploring her darker side in the form of Kate.
Erica Hunt also is enjoying her character of Bianca.

“She’s  kind of ditzy. And a goody two shows, so that’s something new for me to play,” she observed adding she enjoys working with Carlson, who she described as an “actor’s director.”
Fred Hillyer, who once played Father Baptista in a production of Taming of the Shrew, plays Gremio and  General Harrison Howell in Kiss Me Kate.
“It’s been good. It’s been a while since I’ve done community theatre. It’s been nice to perform with people  who are doping it just because they love doing it rather than people doing  because they are being paid for it,” he observed adding he is looking forward to seeing how Kiss Me Kate connects with the audience.

Tickets for the show cost Adults: $22; Students and Seniors: $20 Matinee Nov. 7 - $20.00; Family Pack - 4 for $72 (includes gst) Nov. 5 & 6, only.

Show time is 8 p.m. each night. The matinee starts at 2 p.m.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

A version of this article appears in the  Nov. 3 Lethbridge Sun- Times

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