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
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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