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Theatre / Kiss Me Kate

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Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now.

A 1948 musical by Cole Porter. Kiss Me Kate was an answer to Oklahoma! in that the music advanced the plot. It also won the first Tony Award for Best Musical (along with four other Tonys). A 3-D Movie version was released in 1953.

It's Baltimore, post-World War II. High-minded actor Fred Graham is trying out his musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, starring as Petruchio opposite his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi in the title role ("Another Op'nin', Another Show"). Fellow actress Lois Lane (Bianca) laments the behavior of chronic gambler Bill Calhoun (Lucentio), as Bill has signed Fred's name to a large gambling debt ("Why Can't You Behave?"). Fred and Lilli reminisce about old times ("Wunderbar"), but soon start to argue. Lilli realizes she still loves Fred ("So In Love"), and when a bouquet of flowers from Fred (actually intended for Lois) arrives in her dressing room, she rejoices even more. The show opens with Fred, Lilli, Bill, and Lois onstage ("We Open in Venice"), and continues with numbers by Lois and Bill ("Tom, Dick, or Harry"), Fred ("I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua") and Lilli ("I Hate Men"). But things start to go awry when Lilli reads the note included with the bouquet, acting out onstage and forcing Fred to take matters into his own hands. By spanking her in front of the audience.


Meanwhile, backstage, Fred is approached by two thugs who come to collect the IOU Bill signed Fred's name to. To stop Lilli from quitting the show, Fred tells the two men he can only pay their boss the money with the profits from the night's performance. In between his scenes ("Were Thine That Special Face"), Fred convinces the Two Men to do a little convincing of their own. The gangsters "cajole" Lilli into staying on the show ("Cantiamo d'Amore", "Kiss Me, Kate").

During the Intermission, Fred's dresser Paul and the rest of the ensemble cast complain about the weather ("Too Darn Hot"). Lilli calls her boyfriend, General Harrison Howell, to complain about Fred's treatment of her, and the General immediately drives down to rescue her while the show goes on ("Where is the Life that Late I Led?").


General Howell arrives to take Lilli away ("From This Moment On"). The Two Men find out their boss has been killed, so without an IOU to collect, they try to make their way out of the theater. Lois reassures Bill she has eyes only for him... sort of ("Always True to You") and Bill admits he couldn't leave her ("Bianca"). Fred desperately tries to get Lilli to perform the rest of the show, realizing he still loves her too ("So In Love (Reprise)"). Lilli leaves with Howell. The Two Men get stuck out on stage and improvise ("Brush Up Your Shakespeare"). Fred resigns himself to finish the last scene of the show, not expecting 'Kate' to come onstage. He is surprised but overjoyed when she does; Lilli came back ("I Am Ashamed that Women are so Simple") ("Kiss Me, Kate (Reprise)").

Its best known song is "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". "Another Op'nin' Another Show" is also widely recognized.

Includes examples of:

  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Slightly under half the show is a musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Antihero: Fred.
  • The Bard on Board
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Fred and Lilli.
    Lilli: Whose fault was it?
    Fred: Could have been your temper.
    Lilli: Could have been your ego.
  • Beta Couple: Bill and Lois.
  • Bowdlerisation: In the musical number "Too Darn Hot", the line "according to the Kinsey Report" was changed to "according to the latest report" in the film version. The word "bastard" was replaced in the film with "you louse". Many of the lyrics of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" were changed.
  • Brainless Beauty: Lois
  • Comedic Spanking: Lilli receives a good one from Fred at the end of the first act, technically in character as Katherina but she had it coming herself as well. This sets up a Running Gag of her being unable to sit down well into the second act.
  • Crowd Song: "Another Op'nin', Another Show", "Bianca", "Kiss Me Kate".
  • Delusions of Eloquence: The Two Men. (It's implied that they did a lot of reading in prison.)
  • Double Entendre: It's a show by Cole Porter — would you expect anything else?
  • The Family for the Whole Family: The Two Men.
  • The Gambler: Bill.
  • Godwin's Law: The dialog between Fred and Lilli
    Lilli: "I'm marrying an important man! Do the words "World War 2" mean anything to you?"
    Fred: "You're marrying Adolf Hitler?"
  • Hurricane of Puns: "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" has most of its lyrics be based on puns on titles of William Shakespeare plays. Here is a selection:
    "If you quote a few lines from Othella,
    Then they'll think you're one heck of a fella.
    If your blonde won't respond when you flatter her,
    Tell her what Tony told Cleopatera."
  • "I Am" Song: "Always True to You".
  • "I Hate" Song: "I Hate Men", obviously.
  • The Ingenue: Subverted with Lois. She plays one on stage as Bianca but is far less virginal off stage.
  • Intercourse with You: "I'd like to coo with my baby tonight, pitch the woo with my baby tonight, but I ain't up to my baby tonight 'cuz it's too darn hot!"
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "Too Darn Hot".
  • "I Want" Song: "Why Can't You Behave".
    • "So In Love" also counts.
  • Karma Houdini: Bill. He signs Fred's name to a large gambling debt (to pay for money that Fred doesn't actually have) and his punishment for this is the mob boss that wanted Fred to pay up conveniently dies just in time for Bill and Lois to reconcile and go on to star in what we presume will be a very successful play.
  • Large Ham: The Two Men, with Fred and General Howell trying to out-ham them.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Kiss Me, Kate" is a line within "The Taming of the Shrew."
    • Also, "Always True to You in My Fashion" is probably an intentional paraphrase of a line from the poem "Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae" (better known as simply "Cynara") by Ernest Dowson: "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion." Bonus in-joke points because the speaker has been indulging a lot in wine, women and song in an unsuccessful attempt to forget Cynara.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Because it's too darn hot.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Fred used to be married to Lilli and they still have feelings for each other, but she's now engaged to Harrison Howell who used to have a thing with Lois who is currently going out with Bill, but she's also involved to some degree with Fred (as well as several others, apparently).
  • Loveable Rogue: Bill
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Two Men are named Lippy and Slug in the film version.
  • Narm Charm: In-Universe, the song "Wunderbar." Lili and Fred agree that it's cheesy through and through, but by the last refrain they're moved by the emotion.
  • No Name Given: The Two Men, called 'Man 1' and 'Man 2' in the script.]
  • The Plan: Fred attempt this to keep Lilli in the show, it works for a while, but not long enough.
  • Precision F-Strike: "You BASTARD!"
  • Proscenium Reveal: Just before the overture reaches its final chords, the conductor cuts it off and asks, "Is that all right, Mr. Graham?" Fred enters and says, "Yes, the cut's good, leave it in."
  • Punch Clock Villains: The Two Men. If they're not threatening to kill you and sprinkle the pieces in the Bay, then they're theater enthusiasts who are happy to talk Shakespeare and performance.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience: The Two Men.
  • Really Gets Around: Lois sings a whole song about it.
  • Running Gag: Lilli is unable to sit down after Fred's spanking.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Fred and Lily
  • Show Within a Show/The Musical Musical: The musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, which itself is a Show Within a Show, based on the opening number of their musical, We Open In Venice.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Fred and Lily do quite a bit of this.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Bianca" which is supposed to be a bad poem that Bill wrote for Lois.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: "Wunderbar". Unusually for the trope, it's actually a character-developing moment as the ex-lovers reflect on the good times they used to have singing that song.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: The Two Men (Slug and Lippy).
  • Tsundere: Lily oh so much.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lilli and Lois. Subverted in that Lilli is a Tomboy with attitude but is also very feminine and a soprano.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted; Lilli slaps, punches and commits at lest one Groin Attack on Fred, but when he finally has enough he grabs her and spanks her so long and hard she can't sit down. Neither are ultimately shown to be in the wrong.
  • World of Ham: In and Out of Universe.
  • World of Snark: Even though Lilli and Fred get the majority of snarkiness, the rest of the characters aren't exactly slouches in that department either. Really, the only character who doesn't join in at least once is Harrison Howell.


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