Civic Theatre to present ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

Local audiences are in for an old-fashioned musical treat with next week’s opening of the classic 1940s hit, “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Alpena Civic Theatre Director Jay Kettler has pulled together a large cast of 26 performers who will bring to life the bright Cole Porter tunes that in 1949 helped this musical win the first Tony Award ever presented for Best Musical. The show is a production that Kettler, a retired performing arts instructor, has long wanted to do.

“I’ve loved this show for many, many years, but I never had the opportunity to do it,” Kettler said. “About two years ago, I started talking about doing it at Civic Theatre, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.”

He chose to go with a version more closely aligned to the 1999 Broadway revival of “Kiss Me, Kate.” It’s story considered a play within a play within a play involves a musical production of a musical version of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show’s director, producer and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi.

A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul with some gangsters. The show features ACT’s usual topnotch scenery and costumes, along with plenty of strong voices, choreography and action on stage.

“We have every actor or actress on stage fully engaged for every minute,” Kettler said. “There are so many songs and fun times during the show from the moment folks come in until the very end.”

Playing the four main leads are Marlo Broad and Jeffry A. Kuznicki, Jr. as Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham, and Ashley Timmreck and Nick Hartman as Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun. Providing a cameo role as General Harrison Howell is Karl Heideman, and performing solos as Hattie and Paulette are Nickie Hilton and Jessica Pearson.

Others appearing on stage are Jere Standen as Pops, Lisa Rhea as Ruth, Jim Phillips as Harry, J.D. Neirgarth as Flynt, Liam Rhea as Riley. Chorus members/townspeople include Jeannie Pines, Lillian Broad, Rachel Taratuta, Amanda Hulsey, Linda Suneson, Duane Beyer and Tony Whitney.

Rounding out the cast are Brandon Peterson, Bill Halsey, Bob Coleman, Devon Chisholm, Jerry Broad, Marilyn Kettler and Braden Broad.

“I’ve directed lots of shows, but this is one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with. These folks are awesome and everyone can sing well,” Kettler said.

Musical accompaniment is provided by Suelyn Bartz, Mary Ann Hubbard, Judy Case and John Pines.

Behind the scenes, Jackie Herbert serves as assistant director, Carol Witherbee as music director and Marilyn Kettler as choreographer and head costumer. Lighting design is by Jay Kettler, on props are Judy Beyer and Jim Phillips, assistant choreographer is Dodi Lance and costume designer is Victoria Earhart. Serving as stage manager is Judy Beyer, as backdrop artist is Grace Morrison and as back wall artist is Nancy Mead.

Run dates are May 8-11 and May 15-19 with show times at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. There is no show scheduled for Mother’s Day. For reservations, call the box office at 354-3624.