By David Steinberg
Back in the early 2000s Zane Barker was in the cast of Musical Theatre Southwest’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate.” He played a gangster. Amy Poland was also in the show. Poland was Kate, the female lead. Now after a lengthy absence, Poland has returned to the stage. She’s reprising the two-character role of Kate/Lilly Vanessi in the new Landmark Musicals’ production of “Kiss Me, Kate.”
It opens Saturday, March 11 for a three-week run at UNM’s Rodey Theatre. This time Barker isn’t performing in the show. He’s directing it. “Amy was a shoo-in for the role. The choice was obvious,” Barker said. “She has everything the role requires. She’s got comic timing. She’s a great dramatic actress and she’s got a wonderful soprano voice, and she knows how to use it.”
In 1949, the Cole Porter classic musical won Tonys for Best Musical and Best Original Score. Tunes from the show include “So In Love,” “Why Can’t You Behave,” “Too Darn Hot” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” The musical is in fact based on William Shakespeare’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew.” Kate being the independent woman and Petruchio the man who intends to “tame” her. Playing opposite Poland is Erick Seelinger as Petruchio/Fred Graham.
“I think this is the first time I’ve directed Erick in a show,” Barker said. “He’s such a hard worker and always comes in with a smile on his face. And from the word go he’s focused on the end product. He never gives up even when I ask him for stuff that’s out of his comfort zone. For example, the hand-to-hand stage combat between him and Amy. It ends with a whole lot of plates and cups on the floor.”
The show presents Poland as Kate and Slinger as Petruchio “on- stage” and as Lilly and Fred “off-stage.” Fred is the director, producer and male star of the musical. Off-stage, Kate and Fred deal with each other as a divorced couple. The choreography is by Louis Giannini and Courtney Giannini, who are featured in the production. The set design is by Dahl Delu, an Emmy Award-winning art director. “I feel so lucky every time I get to work with Dahl,” Barker said. “He’s so creative and such a sweetheart to work with. He makes changes on the fly and accommodates all sorts of requests.”
The 14-member orchestra is under music director Darby Fegan. “A live orchestra can’t be beat,” Barker said. “Darby has assembled just the right people for this show.” In 2015, the original cast recording of “Kiss Me, Kate” was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for its “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.”
Landmark Musical’s production of “Kiss Me Kate” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 12 at UNM’s Rodey Theatre. Additional performances are 7:30 p.m. March 17, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 18, at 2 p.m. March 19 and at 7:30 p.m. March 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. March 26. Rodey Theatre is located in UNM’s Center for the Arts. Tickets for reserved seats are $22, $24 and $26 with a $2 discount for students and seniors. For tickets, visit www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858, or go to tickets offices in the UNM Bookstore, The Pit, and the Center for the Arts box office, or at area Albertsons.