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Image Entertainment presents
Kiss Me, Kate (2003)

"It's too darn hot..."
- Paul (Nolan Frederick)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: October 31, 2003

Stars: Brent Barrett, Rachel York, Nancy Anderson, Michael Berresse
Other Stars: Colin Farrell, Jack Chissick, Nicolas Colicos, Teddy Kempner, Nolan Frederick, Christopher Stewart, Kaye E. Brown, Duncan Smith, Andrew Spillett, Philip Sutton, Alan Vicary, Richard Sidaway
Director: Chris Hunt

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 02h:25m:45s
Release Date: May 13, 2003
UPC: 012569508828
Genre: musical comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A+A- D-

DVD Review

During the holiday season of 1948, Broadway received a late Christmas present from one of its greatest musical assets, lyricist supreme Cole Porter. Collaborating with authors Sam and Bella Spewack, the legendary tunesmith created a musical comedy that cleverly intertwined elements of a typical backstage plot with a skewered song and dance retelling of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. An instant smash from its debut at the New Century Theater on December 30th of that year, Kiss Me, Kate ran for a phenomenal 1,077 performances, won five Tony Awards, spawned at least a half dozen standards from its score, and found a second life by way of the 1953 big screen MGM adaptation starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ann Miller (check out fellow dOc reviewer Mark Zimmer's take on that version here).

Some five decades later in what may truly be a first (and perhaps, last), a 2000 Great White Way revival of Kate managed to repeat the multiple award-winning feat of its original cast by chalking up another five trips to the podium. Apparently, the timeless appeal of Porter's creation wasn't just limited stateside; a London adaptation also played to packed houses and was filmed for PBS's heralded Great Performances series; it's that presentation that graces Image Entertainment's DVD release.

Brent Barrett and Rachel York, two musical theater favorites, with richly deserved fan contingents, try their hand at the roles of Frederic C. Graham and Lilli Vanessi, a once-married show biz couple re-teaming under uncomfortable circumstances for a touring production of the aforementioned Shakespearean play turned musical. During a stop in Baltimore, old feelings start to surface, but they're not the only twosome undergoing such emotions; Shrew co-star Lois Lane (Nancy Anderson) is having an intense discussion with Bill Calhoun (Michael Berresse) about his gambling problems, woes that have him in potential hot water with gangsters. Opening night arrives and in a rather sweet gesture, Lilli receives flowers from Fred, a move that so enraptures her, she doesn't even bother to look at the card. That's a good thing, because that special delivery was actually intended for Lois.


Only familiar with this play by name prior to viewing, I now know why Kiss Me, Kate has remained a mainstay of local theater leagues for the past 50 years. Not only are the parallel storylines executed brilliantly with wit and style, it's also a very well rounded musical that unselfishly shares the spotlights with virtually all of its supporting characters. Among the most memorable include Nancy Anderson's ditzy perfection as Lois on Why Can't You Behave and Always True to You in My Fashion; Michale Berrese's stunning physicality on Bianca combines the grace of Fred Astaire and the jaw-dropping moves of Gene Kelly; the double threat comic relief of Teddy Kempner and Jack Chissick, which climaxes on the brilliant vaudeville-ish novelty Brush Up Your Shakespeare, and Nolan Frederick's jazzy take with the ensemble on perhaps the musical's most revered selection, Too Darn Hot.

Dance fans will have plenty to savor too, thanks to the wonderful choreography of Kathleen Marshall, particularly on Hot and the sensual grape stomping sequence that occurs near the close of the opening act. But no project such as this can fully succeed without high caliber leads at the forefront. With Barrett's smooth baritone that does justice to the likes of Wunderbar and Where Is the Life That Late I Led? and York's wonderful vocal versatility on the throaty scowl of I Hate Men to operatic flourishes on the first rendition of the title song, these two renowned performers could not have acquitted themselves more perfectly.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Sparkling like ivories on a well kept piano, this dual-level presentation is a case study on just how beautiful live presentations of any artistic event can look in the here and now if done correctly. Sterling in every category you hurl at it (lighting, costumes, photography, staging, complete lack of visual anomalies, video levels, etc.), it makes me want to the scale the walls Donald O'Connor style as inSingin' In The Rain (but then again, I remember what happened when he went through that paper maché wall, so I'll just raise my hands in an upward clapping motion and say "Bravo!" instead).

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Since I swear by DTS in all matters musical, you know what audio option I preferred out of the three included within. So vivid in its presentation is this track that I thought the percussion player had set up his bongos in my kitchen. This is a mostly positive job (good low end and dynamic highs being the strongest virtues), but I have to knock it down a couple of notches from its flawless video cousin, thanks to the slightly subdued center channel, which is sometimes drowned out by the other channels, and the rather lackluster ambience given to the live audience. Minor criticisms to be sure, but they're worth noting.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:08m:07s

Extras Review: Not in the same league as movie blockbusters, I didn't expect (or miss) the lack of additional inclusions on this Broadway-themed disc, but a text section on the life and career of Cole Porter or behind-the-scenes interviews with the performers might have been worth conjuring up.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Timeless, tuneful, and tickling, the most recent revival of Kiss Me, Kate shines on all levels, courtesy of a first class DVD; let's hope it's the start of a trend in bringing more of Broadway's legendary output to the home theater crowd.


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