Tonawanda News

November 17, 2013

Mount St. Mary stages 'Kiss Me, Kate'

Mount St. Mary Academy presents annual fall musical, Shakespeare-inspired 'Kiss Me, Kate'

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — To start with, there’s Kate.

Who is also Lilli. Who used to be married to Fred. Who is also Petruchio. Who is friends with Lucentio. Who is really Bill. Who is in love with Lois. Who’s also Bianca.

And it just gets more tangled up from there.

Mount St. Mary Academy in the Town of Tonawanda will bring this ... slightly complicated ... story to the stage starting Friday with its fall musical, “Kiss Me, Kate.” The show, which has music and lyrics by Cole Porter and is based in part on William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” tells the tale of a theater troupe performing Shakespeare’s play amidst drama of its own.

Allie Fairbanks, a junior at MSM who plays the dual characters of Lilli (the actress) and Kate (the Shakespearian “shrew”), said it’s been “energizing” to take on the play-within-a-play challenge of the role. As part of playing Lilli playing Kate, she’s had to throw things on stage and yell at her friends and otherwise be, well, shrewish.

“You can see the similarities between Kate and Lilli,” she said. “I like to think I’m not a mean person, and Kate is ... well, she’s a shrew. And Lilli is a little bit arrogant. And I like to think I’m not like that. It’s also fun to play someone I’m not.” 

The students of Mount St. Mary’s are joined on stage by students from Canisius, West Seneca, Williamsville South and Kenmore West high schools and St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute to fill the male roles. 

Ben Harvey, a senior at Kenmore West High School, plays show director/producer Fred Graham and his “The Taming of the Shrew” counterpart Petruchio. Like Fairbanks, he said it’s been a challenge alternating between the different characters, in keeping them distinct while still very related in spirit. 

“Fred and Petruchio, even though they’re different people, are very similar,” he said. “They’re both showmen. There are enough similarities that I have to work to do things differently for each person.”

The show marks a sort of change in direction of another sort for Mount St. Mary Academy. Steve Copps, an award-winning actor who has performed extensively in local productions, is serving as director for the show. His wife, Kelly Jakiel Copps — who has also performed in many Buffalo-area productions, is a co-founder of Second Generation Theater in Buffalo, a 2004 MSM graduate and the school’s new dance and theater teacher — is the show’s choreographer.

Steve Copps said in selecting the show, they took a look at the restrictions and strengths of the student body before picking “Kiss Me, Kate,” a musical with a number of challenges for the students.

“It was one of my personal favorites. I’m a fan of the old classical book musicals,” he said. “It’s a great story. There are a lot of roles for everybody.

“There are multiple opportunities to craft characters, and there are a few who are really making the most of it,” he said, citing Fairbanks, who alternates from playing a somewhat spoiled Lilli to playing a very shrewd, strong Kate.

“We thought it had some interesting challenges and great opportunities for the kids,” Kelly Copps said. “We’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how everyone has risen to the challenge.”

So are the students.

Britini D’Angelo, a junior who plays the role of Paula and sings the number “Too Darn Hot” in the musical, said the show is “amazing.”

“We’ve made great progress. The cast is fabulous,” she said. “It’s not the simplest musical to do. There’s so much in it. But we’re going to put on a great production and I hope everyone else thinks so too.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Kiss Me Kate" • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Nov. 24 • WHERE: Mount St. Mary Academy auditorium, 3756 Delaware Ave., Kenmore • COST: Tickets are $10 for adults and students and $8 for children younger than 14 and senior citizens. For more information, call 877-1358.