Kiss Me, Kate

Music & Lyrics: Cole Porter

Book: Samuel & Bella Spewack

The idea for Kiss Me, Kate was planted in the mind of producer Saint Subber in 1935. While working as a stagehand for the Theatre Guild's production of The Taming of the Shrew, Subber noticed that the stars of the show, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, had a backstage relationship that was almost as tempestuous as the one they had onstage while portraying Shakespeare's famous quarelling couple.

Although veteran comedy writers Samuel and Bella Spewack had been separated for some time, they reunited to write the libretto for Kiss Me, Kate, and after the production, they chose to stay together permanently. Their libretto creates a play-within-a-play that follows the lives of egotistical actor-producer Fred Graham and his temperamental co-star and ex-wife, Lili Vanessi in a production of, you guessed it, Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Cole Porter's brilliant score borrows freely from Shakespeare's dialogue for lyrics in the musical numbers that take place "onstage" but makes use of more modern syntax in the "backstage" numbers.

Kiss Me, Kate opened at the New Century Theatre on December 30, 1948, with Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison in the lead roles. The production went on to win 5 Tony Awards including "Best Musical," "Best Script" and "Best Score" before closing on July 28, 1951 after 1,070 performances. The show was then remounted at the London Coliseum on March 8, 1951 and ran for another 400 performances. The 1953 film version featured Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller and Tommy Rall. A 1999 Broadway revival featured Tony Award nominees Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie.

Other musicals based on Shakespearean plays include West Side Story, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Boys From Syracuse.

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