There’s something strange about seeing something familiar in a new place. Maybe it’s realizing you took it for granted and shouldn’t have. Maybe it’s seeing its vulnerable side. Whatever it is, it shakes you up.
CLO hit a lot of us who went, that way last weekend.
The problem wasn’t with “Kiss Me Kate,” their 26th season opener. Cole Porter’s music, a vibrant cast, mainstream comedy. It’s just the kind of thing CLO’s following has been savoring for years but at the Jane Addams. “Kate” is at, and CLO from now on is at the Shoreline Conference Center.
Nothing against the Conference Center per se, it’s been hosting community events for years, marvelously, I’ve been to many. But seeing CLO there for the first time hit like a ton of bricks.
A volunteer welcomed us on the way in with a candy kiss, one from her basketful; it was a friendly, thoughtful thing to do. Producing Artistic Director Greg Morales apologized for the long walk from parking to the auditorium. He would see to it in the future that nothing was scheduled when a football game was going on. Seating was comfortable, spacious; temperature control, faultless. Even so, nothing softened the blow.
Not until the lights went down and the overture began. Under the baton of Music Director, Bernard Kwiram, racing, abbreviate passages hinting at “Wunderbar,” “I Hate Men,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Kiss Me Kate” and other perennials took effect, created a sense of anticipation.
And the rest was the love story in song and dance that you counted on; the love story of an actor and actress on and off stage as styled after Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.”
Glen Guhr and Amanda Brown lead a bright, funny cast bursting with exuberance. Lyrics and dance routines have the lingo and steps with lingo that you associate with tin pan alley. Costumes catch the look of backstage Johnnys and starry-eyed hopefuls living out of suitcases and working the theater circuit that they hope will lead to Broadway. Also, scenes from Shakespeare take on a kind of nostalgic, faraway radiance that fits the remoteness of Elizabethan times.
This is a solid “Kate,” one that will take your mind off things.
As for the venue, give it a chance. Let “Kate” help you get used to the idea. CLO is pulling for us all, I am sure.