Kiss Me, Kate

Kiss Me, Kate (currently playing at The Barbican Theatre, London) is a revival of a classic musical adored by many theatregoer and it's certainly not hard to see why it's been brought back to the city. With spectacular music and lyrics by Cole Porter and a chuckle-worthy book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, this family-friendly musical depicts a group of actors touring a musical version of Shakespeare's famous 'Taming Of The Shrew' and their turbulent on and off-stage relationships.

Written by Porter in response to Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kiss Me, Kate was the first musical he wrote where the music and lyrics were relevant to and even furthered the storyline. The musical premiered in 1948 and soon after won the first Tony Award for Best Musical. 

Set in the heart of London, the Barbican Theatre is situated in the Barbican Centre, which is the largest performing arts centre of it's kind in Europe. It was designed by and for The Royal Shakespeare Company and is an extremely open, comfortable space to watch a show. The stylish venue is the perfect for a sophisticated production such as Bartlett Sher's take on Kiss Me, Kate - which could have come straight from a year-long Broadway run judging from the slick, masterful show delivered.

The story follows a charming producer and actor Fred Graham (Adrian Dunbar) and his fiery ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie J Block) as they navigate performing together in a travelling show. We also meet other thespians involved in the play like the fun and flirtatious Lois Lane (Georgina Onuorah) and her flame Bill (Charlie Stemp) whose gambling problem endangers the whole show, causing gangsters (Hammed Animashaun and Nigel Lindsay) to appear and wreak havoc, albeit in a very hilarious, showstopping way!

The cast each shine in their own right, making it almost impossible to choose a favourite. Broadway royalty Stephanie J Block mesmerised us as she flawlessly floated her way through the beautiful score. Georgina Onuorah showed off her enviable dulcet tones, especially in her stunning, standout number ‘Always True To You Me Darling In My Fashion.’ The ‘Line of Duty’ star Adrian Dunbar made us chuckle with his great comic interpretations and charming essence. With a book full of slapstick comedy and quick puns, it could have easily turned into a panto-esque cheap laughs but somehow they all kept it classy and thoroughly engaging, even if the first act felt considerably longer than the second.

Good lighting from Donald Holder ensured every face was well-lit. I particularly enjoyed the vibrant red utilised during the heavily choreographed numbers alongside the bright, bolting spotlights. The set was designed by Michael Yeargan who delivered a simple yet well-considered, revolving brick building base. Featured around the brickwork was the noticeable difference between Mr Graham’s very minimal dressing room and Mrs Vanessi’s opulent one. Due to the nature of this musical-within-a-musical, quick scene changes were navigated by turning the set to reveal the next backstage or onstage event. I was particularly excited by the costumes by Catherine Zuber who transported us back in time with her elegant designs.

A sterling job by Adam Fisher serving us a crisp, clear sound throughout, enabling us to hear every word and note sang. It’s a shame that what should simply be the standard quality in theatres is unfortunately not being reached in a lot of other venues - resulting in muffled sound, low volume and in some recent cases cast members’ microphones not even being turned on until half way through their line.

Musical Director by Stephen Ridley conducted this fabulous score and his full orchestra down in the pit and with the talented ensemble and lead roles, this large cast amounted to a whopping 50 people. 

It was refreshing to see a production at such a scale where budget cuts weren’t driving down numbers, yet instead providing work for more skilled actors and musicians.

For a show that’s previously won five Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Drama Desk Award and a Drama League Award, there’s undoubtedly a lot of pressure to compare to the successful revivals that have come before however this star-studded production does just that. The effortless vocals paired with amusing acting and exhilarating dances make this a triumph in musical theatre and one that would most-certainly make Mr Porter proud.

It’s clear that this production is too darn hot for it’s own good! Even though the book of Kiss Me, Kate isn’t entirely politically correct and certainly doesn’t display the current values of today, the sheer talent on stage ensures you’ll still have a great night out! This fun show will be playing until 14th September so if you need to ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ then be sure not to miss out!

This show was reviewed on the 18th June 2024 at The Barbican Centre, London where it runs until the 14th September 2024.  Tickets available here: Kiss Me, Kate | Spectacular Broadway Musical at Barbican 2024 (

Review written by Lauren Atkinson


Photo credit: Johan Persson

Check out other reviews from Curtain Call Reviews and get in touch to have our reviewers head to your show.

We need your consent to load the translations

We use a third-party service to translate the website content that may collect data about your activity. Please review the details in the privacy policy and accept the service to view the translations.