The sparkling revival of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate on Broadway (at Studio 54, through June 2) is glorious to watch, a sumptuous treat. But whatever gender controversies the musical, originally mounted in 1948, once provoked, whatever issues it raised about male control and female compliance, have been cheerfully erased.
As played by the excellent, Tony-winning Kelli O’Hara, Lilli, the celebrity actress coming to perform in a production of The Taming of The Shrew—Kiss Me, Kate’s play within a play—is “done” with men until the very end, where, completely inexplicably (to me at least), she is not. This Lilli Vanessi/Kate is untameable though not a shrew, and suddenly, weirdly very tameable. Does she bang her head off stage or something?
The Kiss Me, Kate of 2019 is more screwball comedy than sexist dinosaur, or an interrogation of the latter. If Carousel’s overt anti-female violence shocked you last season, or if the twist at the end of My Fair Lady was a nod to #MeToo debates, Kiss Me, Kate 2019 takes a swerve away from cultural confrontation.