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Kiss Me, Kate

Kiss Me, Kate is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Bella and Samuel Spewack. It is structured as a play within a play, where the interior play is a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The original production starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.

It opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre on December 30, 1948 and ran for 1077 performances. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 1949. Kiss Me, Kate was a comeback and a personal triumph for Cole Porter. It was a response to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and other integrated musicals, and it proved to be his biggest hit and the only one of his shows to run for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway.

Egotistical Fred Graham is the director of a Broadway-bound musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. He and his diva movie-star ex-wife Lilli Vanessi star opposite each other in the roles of Petruchio and Katharine (The “Kate” of the title).

The pair argue backstage as only people in love can argue. Meanwhile, Fred’s new girlfriend, Lois Lane, who plays Bianca, is romantically interested in Bill Calhoun, the actor playing Lucentio. Bill loves to gamble, and it turns out that he has signed Fred’s name to a big IOU [for $10,000 from a game of craps]. Also, flowers sent by Fred to Lois are mistakenly delivered to Lilli, and Lilli realizes that she still loves Fred.

Everyone is in the middle of performing The Taming of the Shrew on stage when Lilli discovers that Fred’s flowers were really intended for Lois, and she starts an all-out war mid-performance that threatens the production’s success. At the same time, a pair of gangsters have come after Fred to collect the gambling debt, since his name is on the IOU. Only a successful show will provide the money that Fred needs to avoid getting his fingers broken.

Later, the gangsters find out that their boss has been killed, and so the IOU is worthless, and they leave, noting that guys who know Shakespeare can impress the ladies. Lilli quits the show, walking out with her dependable fiance Harrison. On stage, Bianca and Lucentio are finally married. As “The Shrew” comes to a close, Lilli unexpectedly returns to the stage, and speaking as Katharine, she admits her love for Fred. Lilli and Fred are reunited, Lois and Bill come together, and all ends happily.

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