“Kiss Me Kate” to stage this weekend

FPAC’s annual spring musical production will be booming with drama this year once “Kiss Me Kate” hits the stage this weekend. The show will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

If you’re wondering what makes “Kiss Me Kate” so dramatic, you might just have to attend and see for yourself. The show will include everything from staged combat to real combat, slapstick comedy with an actual “slap,” and basically anything in between.

The play explores the complicated relationships on and off the stage of a group of theater actors as they prepare a production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” The show stars WCU students Patrick Detloff, Casey Weems, Amanda Kouri, Joe Callahan, Peter O’Neal, Jonathan Cobrda, Tyler McKenzie, Tommy Cooley, David Haines and Cameron Feuerhelm, among others.

Director Terrence Mann, WCU Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre, brings his direct knowledge of the stage to this production. Mann has been nominated for three Tony Awards and is best known for originating the role of the Beast in the Broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Working with Terrence has been everything I have ever hoped it would be,” said senior Musical Theater major Patrick Detloff. “Terrence is big about making choices. He let us have artistic freedom to develop our characters. He’s just fantastic.”

“He gave us a lot of freedom to explore our characters and take risks,” said junior Musical Theater major Casey Weems. “I’ve always kinda idolized him. Working with him was like a dream come true.”

The cast have been rehearsing the show for four weeks and have worked as many as 25 hours a week, while Detloff and Weems have been practicing the script since December. During the four weeks the cast has struggled with memorizing the lines, especially Detloff whose character takes on so many roles. The show is also very vocally, physically, and emotionally demanding. It has required a tremendous amount of stamina from the cast to wear such vintage costumes – which are Tony Award winning – and the use and sometimes throwing of props, which could sometimes weigh between 50-60 lbs.

Detloff, who will be playing the lead male role as “Fredric C. Graham” – the passionate egotistical artist – described this production as “very three Stooges.”

“This show is about physical comedy,” said Detloff. “It’s about the humor within the complication of the relationship and how within that there is always still a strong amount of heart. It’s a comedy, it’s over-the-top, and it’s a lot of fun. There are those gems of realism, those moments that are truthful and that hit the viewer, and out of nowhere they connect.”

Weems, who will be playing the lead female role as “Kate” – the temperamental diva – agreed with Detloff.

“It’s a musical inside of a musical,” Weems said. “It’s very 40’s. It reminds me of old black and white films. It’s also very dramatic and over-the-top.”

For Detloff and Weems this will be one of the last shows they will perform at WCU.

“It’s bittersweet with slightly more sweet,” said Detloff. “On the one hand, I have been here for years and this is one of biggest roles I’ve had, and I’m sad to see it go. But it’s been really good to spend my last show with Casey, who has been my best friend for three years.”

Both stars of the show described the show as “over-the-top,” which can only be a clue to how extraordinary the show will be. Perhaps you should come see for yourself.

Tickets to “Kiss Me, Kate” cost $20 for adults, $15 for senior citizens and $5 for students. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call 828-227-2479 or go online to theatretickets.wcu.edu.