Georgia Shakespeare’s “Shrew: The Musical” is an ice cream sundae of a show, set in a blaze of color and light in the art deco world of 1930’s Miami, running in repertory through August 8. It is a musical adaptation, as you might guess, of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Beautiful Bianca (Ann Marie Gideon) has no shortage of suitors, but Daddy Baptista (Allen O’Reilly) has decreed she may not marry until her firebrand sister Kate (Park Krausen) is betrothed. Bianca’s admirers persuade the dashing Petruchio (Joe Knezevich) that he is the man; Petruchio takes up the challenge and the “taming” is underway.
Conceived, adapted, and directed by John R. Briggs (and first performed by GA Shake in 1993), with music and lyrics by Mr. Briggs and the late Dennis West, the music and lyrics pay homage to the great songwriters of the period: Fats Waller, Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, and Hoagy Carmichael. The songs here are comic and charming; they may not be, say, Harold Arlen at his best (a pretty tall order), but they serve the show—and the characters—very well.
The choreography is by Jen MacQueen; the snazzy scenic design is by Rochelle Barker; the superb costumes are by Doug Koertge. So presto, we have a singing, dancing Georgia Shakespeare revealing razzmatazz talents I’ve never seen displayed on this stage before. How nice that the company can use versatility heretofore kept largely under wraps.
The cast is led by the aforementioned Joe Knezevich and Park Krausen, real-life husband and wife (fast becoming Atlanta’s Lunt-Fontanne, or maybe Burton-Taylor). Perhaps the delightful chemistry they have as performers would be there were they not spouses, but we’ll never know, will we? Here they sing, they dance, and of course they are both first-rate actors.
But they are not alone. GA Shake has brought out its big guns to entertain you: Chris Kayser (Is there anything this man cannot do?), Daniel Thomas May (in a surprising, quirky performance as Tranio), Courtney Patterson, Brad Sherrill, Neal A. Ghant, Tim McDonough, Allen O’Reilly, and others.
A wonderful, carefree sense of wit and style pervades the piece. Shakespeare purists may quibble here and there, but if you accept the syntax, so to speak, and just go with it, you’ll have a ball. We should mention that this show marks the 25th anniversary of the Georgia Shakespeare Summer Festival, and we offer our heartiest congratulations, with a special nod to Richard Garner, Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director.
The company has come a long way since they performed their shows in a tent on Oglethorpe’s campus. Since 1997 they’ve been ensconced at the lovely (and air-conditioned!) Conant Theatre on the campus. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “King Lear” are coming up this summer in reportory. “Shrew: The Musical” is a perfect summer kick-off; don’t cheat yourself of the fun, frolic, and artistry here. Go.