As we prepare to open Kiss Me, Kate later in the month, our cast of opera singers, West End performers and dancers are working hard to bring Cole Porter's classic musical to toe-tapping life.
We nipped into rehearsals one afternoon to see how everything was going and to meet just a few of the 140 people involved in bringing the production to the stage.
For this revival we will be have spent five weeks in the studio rehearsing an average of 33-42 hours per week, followed by on stage rehearsals of about 45 hours.
— Edward Goggins, Revival Director
Set both on and off-stage during the production of a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Kiss Me, Kate revolves around the tempestuous love lives of actor-producer Fred Graham and his leading lady Lilli Vanessi who also happens to be his ex-wife. Having played disillusioned husband Sam in Trouble in Tahiti during the recent Little Greats season, Dutch baritone Quirijn de Lang returns as Fred, while soprano Stephanie Corley takes on the role of Lilli Vanessi (both pictured above):
I auditioned for the original 2015 production but had to drop out of the running when I discovered my first baby was due on Opening Night! I loved the music so much though that, when I got married later that year, 'So in Love' from the show was our first dance.
— Stephanie Corley, Lilli Vanessi
While Stephanie and Quirijn are both opera singers who have appeared in previous Opera North productions, Zoë Rainey and Alan Burkitt (above) join the cast from London's West End. Zoë most recently played Milo Davenport in An American in Paris at the Dominion and was also a member of the stellar company assembled by Sir Kenneth Branagh for his 2015 residency at the Garrick. A dancer, singer, choreographer and actor, Alan was the lead role in the Olivier award-winning Top Hat. Amongst his achievements, he can list being crowned All England Tap Dancer of the Year while still at stage school!
Central to the production are our cast of dancers who have only a matter of weeks in which to master all the complex dance routines with choreographer Will Tuckett and associate choreorgrapher David Hulston. When asked which Cole Porter song out of the many Broadway classics was their favourite, everyone picked the high-energy 'Too Darn Hot'.
'Too Darn Hot' just makes me want to get up and dance — although I do also love 'Always True to You in my Fashion'.
— Freya Field, Dancer
Waiting in the wings, there were also some rather more unusual cast members looking very Shakespearean — spot the finest ruff in the production!
Kiss Me, Kate opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Wednesday 23 May before heading to the Coliseum in the West End in June and, finally, to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
Photo credit: Tom Arber