Kiss Me Kate: 1961

Patrice Munsel had been playing Lilli Vanessi since 1952, and she was one of the standard interpreters of the role up to the later 1970s, a career almost concurrent with the great Patricia Morison, who created the part back in 1948. And after Miss Morison became the first Miss Vanessi to be spanked on television (in 1958, by the original Fred, Alfred Drake), was there just a chance that Miss Munsel would follow suit in 1961?

The publicists for the March 17 edition of Alfred Drake’s show, the Bell Telephone Hour, did their best to suggest that this was on the cards, and host and guest even posed for a picture purporting to illustrate what was going to happen to Patrice on the show:

46 1961 Bell Telephone Hour Alfred Drake & Patrice Munsel

‘Scenes from Kiss Me Kate‘ were promised. What was delivered, however, was all songs and no spanking!

March 17 also saw the musical performed in Oak Park, Illinois, with a second performance the following day, and this time there was spanking, as Lola Dvorak may have been dismayed to discover when Robert Nesmith took her across his knee. The picture, with the spanking on the right, is sadly rather dark, but here it is for the record:

Now to Everett High School, Washington, where Gary Hatle really did spank Mary Tutland:

At Theatre First, Chicago, from April 7-16:

May 5 and 6 was the opportunity to see Bob Anderson spank Linda Medford at Tooele High School, Utah:

At the Belknap Theatre, Louisville, Kentucky, KMK opened May 19 for three weeks, during which J. B. Davis played what one reviewer called ‘a good old-fashioned spanking delivered by Fred to his kicking, clawing costar’, Mitzi Friedlander:

This continued to be a year for early Lillis returning to the role. On May 28, Kiss Me Kate made its debut on German television, with Gerhard Riedmann as Fred and Hannelore Schroth as Lilli:

She had previously played the role in the enormously successful Berlin production of 1955-56. And while we’re on the subject of early Lillis, back to Patricia Morison now, who said in the early Sixties that by then she had played the part so often that she could do it ‘practically in my sleep’. But she may have been kept awake at St Louis Municipal Opera, where she appeared for the week of July 10-16. Why? There’s no clue in the KMK image from the program cover:

But her costar on this occasion was Earl Wrightson, a notoriously hard spanker in the role of Fred and so unlikely to let Patricia sleep soundly whilst across his knee! Here they are posing for publicity, and notwithstanding Earl’s evident enthusiasm, Patricia does indeed seem a little bored:

Don’t get bored, Patricia: it’s only 1961, and you’ll still be playing this part in 1978!

Earl went straight on to another production in Rochester, New York, opening July 24, which was evidently unwelcome news for Marthe Errolle:

And after that, Earl’s immediate future included a rapid reunion with the Morison rear end: they were back together for a week’s run at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera from August 14.

Over in Fort Lauderdale, August 17 and 18 were red-letter (and perhaps red-bottom) days for Sally Miller, thanks to her costar Andrew Yoh:

And at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Jim Martin did this to Sarah Glenn from November 30 through December 2:

Finally, a couple of performances for which we don’t have exact dates. This one’s at Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts:

And in Stockholm, here’s Sture Lagerwall spanking movie star Maj-Britt Nilson:

While we’re keeping an eye on the musical’s fortunes overseas, we’ll footnote one more international premiere: KMK opened, in French, at the Theater Royal, Brussels, in June.

And so to 1962!

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