Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Kissed by Cole

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Kissed by Cole

Article excerpt

A sassy revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate reminds us that the great gay songwriter had an ear for hetero hijinks.

Kiss Me, Kate * Martin Beck Theatre, New York City (through December 31) * Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by Sam and Bella Spewack * Directed by Michael Blakemore * Starring Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Amy Spanger, and Michael Berresse

"Musicals were always gay," proclaims Duke University professor John M. Clum in Something for the Boys, his fascinating new book on musical theater and gay culture. "They always attracted a gay audience, and, at their best, even in times of a policed closet, they were created by gay men." That might be news to Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein. But Clum, a self-identified "show queen," exaggerates to support his thesis--that the musical is a big gay party that everyone is welcome to attend.

Interestingly, Clum uses as a case in point Kiss Me, Kate, the 1948 musical adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, widely acknowledged as Cole Porter's masterpiece. Clum claims gay parentage for this cartoon of heterosexuality, since in addition to the composer, its original producer (Arnold Saint Subber) and director (John C. Wilson, Noel Coward's manager and former lover) were openly gay, and the male second lead, Harold Lang, was bisexual. Well, OK, but the success of the original production owed as much to the work of ostensible heterosexuals--librettist Bella Spewack (and her husband, Sam), choreographer Hanya Holm, and stars Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison.

The current Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate--the first since the original--gives us a chance to ponder whether this question of gay parentage matters at all. And my first inclination is to say no. The show is absolutely terrific. …

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