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Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now.
It's Baltimore, post-World War II. High-minded actor Fred Graham is trying out his musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, starring as Petruchio opposite his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi in the title role ("Another Op'nin', Another Show"). Fellow actress Lois Lane (Bianca) laments the behavior of chronic gambler Bill Calhoun (Lucentio), as Bill has signed Fred's name to a large gambling debt ("Why Can't You Behave?"). Fred and Lilli reminisce about old times ("Wunderbar"), but soon start to argue. Lilli realizes she still loves Fred ("So In Love"), and when a bouquet of flowers from Fred (actually intended for Lois) arrives in her dressing room, she rejoices even more. The show opens with Fred, Lilli, Bill, and Lois onstage ("We Open in Venice"), and continues with numbers by Lois and Bill ("Tom, Dick, or Harry"), Fred ("I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua") and Lilli ("I Hate Men"). But things start to go awry when Lilli reads the note included with the bouquet, acting out onstage and forcing Fred to take matters into his own hands. By spanking her in front of the audience.
Meanwhile, backstage, Fred is approached by two thugs who come to collect the IOU Bill signed Fred's name to. To stop Lilli from quitting the show, Fred tells the two men he can only pay their boss the money with the profits from the night's performance. In between his scenes ("Were Thine That Special Face"), Fred convinces the Two Men to do a little convincing of their own. The gangsters "cajole" Lilli into staying on the show ("Cantiamo d'Amore", "Kiss Me, Kate").
During the Intermission, Fred's dresser Paul and the rest of the ensemble cast complain about the weather ("Too Darn Hot"). Lilli calls her boyfriend, General Harrison Howell, to complain about Fred's treatment of her, and the General immediately drives down to rescue her while the show goes on ("Where is the Life that Late I Led?").
General Howell arrives to take Lilli away ("From This Moment On"). The Two Men find out their boss has been killed, so without an IOU to collect, they try to make their way out of the theater. Lois reassures Bill she has eyes only for him... sort of ("Always True to You") and Bill admits he couldn't leave her ("Bianca"). Fred desperately tries to get Lilli to perform the rest of the show, realizing he still loves her too ("So In Love (Reprise)"). Lilli leaves with Howell. The Two Men get stuck out on stage and improvise ("Brush Up Your Shakespeare"). Fred resigns himself to finish the last scene of the show, not expecting 'Kate' to come onstage. He is surprised but overjoyed when she does; Lilli came back ("I Am Ashamed that Women are so Simple") ("Kiss Me, Kate (Reprise)").
It's best known song is "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". "Another Op'nin' Another Show" is also widely recognized.
Includes examples of:
- 3D Movie: The film version, although it's now extremely difficult to see it in the original format.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Slightly under half the show is a musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.
- Anti-Hero: Fred.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Fred and Lilli.
Lilli: Whose fault was it?
Fred: Could have been your temper.
Lilli: Could have been your ego.
- Beta Couple: Bill and Lois.
- Brainless Beauty: Lois
- Breakaway Pop Hit: Cut Song "From This Moment On" to a limited extent.
- Comedy of Remarriage: Implied at the end.
- Crowd Song: "Another Op'nin', Another Show", "Bianca", "Kiss Me Kate".
- Cut Song: "From This Moment On", though it was later reinstated.
- Strangely, this is a cut number from a different Cole Porter musical, Out of This World, which made its way into the film version of Kiss Me, Kate and then, in a different context, revivals of the stage version.
- Delusions of Eloquence: The Two Men. (It's implied that they did a lot of reading in prison.)
- Double Entendre: It's a show by Cole Porter -- would you expect anything else?
- The Family for the Whole Family: The Two Men.
- Fair for Its Day: The roles of Fred's and Lilli's personal assistants seem almost blatantly racist in hindsight, though they are still sympathetic--if underdeveloped--characters. On the other hand, back in the '40s you had people complaining that they got too much face-time, along with those scandalous act-opening numbers (Moral Guardians actually tried to ban "Too Darn Hot", and did at least succeed in transferring it to the white characters and toning down the lyrics for The Movie)...
- The Gambler: Bill.
- Godwin's Law: The dialog between Fred and Lilli
- "I Am" Song: "Always True to You".
- The Ingenue: Subverted with Lois. She plays one on stage as Bianca but is far less virginal off stage.
- Intercourse with You: "Too Darn Hot".
- Irrelevant Act Opener: "Too Darn Hot".
- "I Want" Song: "Why Can't You Behave".
- Large Ham: The Two Men, with Fred and General Howell trying to out-ham them.
- Literary Allusion Title
- Name's the Same: Lois Lane.
- No Name Given: The Two Men, called 'Man 1' and 'Man 2' in the script.]
- The Plan: Fred attempt this to keep Lilli in the show, it works for a while, but not long enough.
- Precision F-Strike: "You BASTARD!"
- Proscenium Reveal: Just before the overture reaches its final chords, the conductor cuts it off and asks, "Is that all right, Mr. Graham?" Fred enters and says, "Yes, the cut's good, leave it in."
- Pushed in Front of the Audience: The Two Men.
- Really Gets Around: Lois sings a whole song about it
- Running Gag: Lilli is unable to sit down after Fred's spanking.
- Show Within a Show: The musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, which itself is a Show Within a Show, based on the opening number of their musical, We Open In Venice.
- Spank the Cutie
- That Reminds Me of a Song: "Wunderbar".
- Those Two Guys: The Two Men.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lilli and Lois. Subverted in that Lilli is a Tomboy with attitude but is also very feminine and a soprano.
- World of Ham: In and Out of Universe.