Kiss Me Kate Play (94393)

Go to the Pasadena Playhouse to see “Kiss Me, Kate,” running now through Oct. 12. This play, with lyrics and music by Cole Porter, was first performed in 1948 and became his biggest Broadway hit, winning the first Tony Award presented for Best Musical, in 1949.

The original “Kiss Me, Kate” was a play within a play: the cast plays a cast staging a production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

But this rendition is actually a play within a play within a play. Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps has recast the play with African American actors who are staging an “adaptation” of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” re-named “Swingin’ the Shrew.”

At the helm of a well-spoken, energetic cast are “Let’s Make a Deal’s” Wayne Brady (Fred/Petruchio) and a crystal-clear-voiced Merle Dandridge (Lilli/Kate) as his divorced wife. The cast includes Rogelio Douglas Jr. (Paul), Jenelle Lynn Randall (Hattie), and Joanna A. Jones (Lois/Bianca), whose vocal shadings and tongue-in-cheek performance of “Always True To You In My Fashion” stands out in Act 2.

The music/lyrics are sophisticated yet warm (“From This Moment On,” “So In Love”). Cole Porter was known for turning a phrase (“If my wife has for me a bag of gold, what do I care if the bag is old?”), political incorrectness (“I Hate Men,” “Why Can’t You Behave?”) and double entendres (“Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”)

With good elocution and timing, this cast handles all of these elements well, not to mention the choreography of Jeffrey Polk, Rahn Coleman’s musical direction, David K. Mickelsen’s colorful costumes and the scenic/lighting designs of John Iacovelli and Jared Sayeg.

Make sure you’re in your seat at the start of Act 2. It’s a showstopper.

“Kiss Me, Kate” is playing through Oct. 12 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S El Molino Ave., Pasadena. For more information, visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org. or call (626) 356-7529.