Susan Powell (a former Miss America) has the right imperial quality (if not the perfect voice) as Lilli Vanessi, a faltering movie star reduced to slumming in an out-of-town tryout of a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, helmed by her ex-husband of one year, impresario/egotist Fredric Graham (Stephen Buntrock).
The devilishly handsome Buntrock pumps himself up to portray the ultimate two-syllable Shakespearean "ac-tor." In addition, the pair has great chemistry from the very first strains of "Wunderbar" (Porter's brilliant send-up of operetta tropes) through the slapstick "taming" played on two levels -- scripted and non.
While the chorine Lois Lane, for instance, is usually depicted as a gum-snapping floozy, Andrea Chamberlain -- an America's sweetheart type possessed of a golden voice -- lends the gold-digger a corn-fed, kewpie-doll cuteness. Sure, Lois is mercenary as all get out (note the shopping list enfolded in "Always True to You in My Fashion," her litany of potential peccadilloes), but here she comes across as a sensible careerist.
Meanwhile, there's no question that Lois has a sincere soft spot for her co-star/paramour Bill, who's playing Bianca's suitor Lucentio (when not cutting rehearsal to gamble). His portrayer, Matt Loehr has one of those sidelong smiles and slinky physiques that telegraph 1940s hipster, and wow, can he dance. Ditto for the whole ensemble, whipped to a jazzy frenzy by choreographer Shea Sullivan. "Too Darn Hot" -- with Correy West singing lead vocals -- will leave you gasping.
Gary Lynch puts in a memorable cameo as the jutting-jawed General Harrison Howe, Lilli's next intended (who happens to number among Lois's past conquests). However, top kudos have to go to the fraternal duo of Bob and Jim Walton as the goons come to collect on Bill's IOU, which he signed in Fred's name.
The pair -- one piping-voiced and peppy, the other a deadpan basso -- take their enforcer duties to heart, going so far as to shadow Fred onstage (fedoras atop motley) and to hold the rebellious Lilli to her commitment, lest the show go under. When all the competing schemes hit a snag and the thugs are left onstage to improvise "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," the tapping Walton brothers -- as smooth a team as you'll ever see -- bring down the house.
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