Kiss Me Kate: 2018

As I have observed elsewhere, 2018 was a difficult year for Kiss Me Kate, but thankfully reports of the musical’s imminent obsolescence proved wildly premature: many troupes did still produce it, many actresses were spanked (except at a certain shameful high school in Illinois that was presumptuous enough to omit the scene) and sometimes the productions encouraged or permitted public attention to the spanking scene in the material they made available. One production that didn’t opened at Dessau in Germany on January 19, with a trailer that features no spanking. But at least there is a smacked bottom for Karen Helbing’s Lois, and on the seat of her black panties too:

Karen occasionally got more than that, because she played Lilli in a few performances, and the production was further notable for portraying Harrison Howell as Donald Trump – which turned out to be a common 2018 production decision outside the US!

There was an amateur production in Derby, England, playing February 20-24:

The musical opened at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, Colorado, on February 23, and ran until April 15. Allow me to introduce Scott Hurst as Mr Frederic Graham, and allow him to introduce Heather McClain as Miss Vanessi:

Here they are doing something they got to do nightly for more than seven weeks:

A high school in New Jersey from March 1 through 10:

March 2-4 saw a production at a high school in Delaware. The theater was apparently not blessed with a fast-moving stage curtain, so the production had to find an inventive way of screening off the spanking from the audience:

And before the last performance, the father of the student playing Lilli memorably announced, ‘You have one last chance to see my daughter get spanked’:

In Nelsonville, Ohio, the ABC Players production ran for six performances between March 2 and 11, but the handling of Chrissy Barkhurst-McKinney by Esteban Vazquez looks sadly half-hearted in the available photo of the spanking scene:

Next to Indiana, where a high school presented the musical March 9-11:

At the DeKalb School of the Arts in Georgia, the musical ran March 22-31, and, by the looks of it, the spanking was more like a round of applause:

For their April 4-7 production, England’s Weston Operatic Society produced a remarkable, Swiss-designed series of minimalist posters, all showing the same image of a pair of legs in different orientations. One of them clearly implies spanking, without actually showing it:

There was a lot less leg when Dylan Cheasley spanked Maureen Wycherley in the production itself!

Over in Amsterdam, the musical ran April 11-15, with John Koppens as Fred. Lilli was double cast, with each actress giving three performances and getting three spankings. One of them was Lotte Nije Bijvank, but the Lilli in the picture is Stefanie Knipscheer:

And at a high school in Alabama, April 12-15:

April 12-15 saw a production at another high school in New York:

Oh no! He’s spanking her! Quick, drop the curtain so the audience doesn’t see!

Yet another high school production, this time in California, April 13-22:

Meanwhile, in Maine:

And at a university in Kentucky, from April 19 to 29:

As the spring came in, skirts started to go up, starting with the Virginia Musical Theatre run of April 27-29. Heather Parcells’ costume was notable for not including bloomers:

But Michael Hunsaker only raised the top skirt, and spanked her on her frilly underskirt:

Next up was Owen Theatre, Texas, where the Players Theatre Company staged KMK May 4-26, with Dave Kerr and Lizzie Camp and a publicity poster featuring the key scene:

Meanwhile, in Annapolis, the local Shakespeare Company presented KMK from May 4 to June 3, with Benjamin Russell and Robin Weiner. Of the various pictures they released of the production, there’s only one that might show the spanking scene.

It’s striking that rather more of her dress seems to be gathered around her middle than you might expect, so this could be a tabletop spanking with a raised skirt – but it could also be some other moment of crisis in the fight scene. The problem is the selection of what to shoot and how to crop: I’d never disagree that Lilli’s a vitally important element of the scene, and the play, but I’d still like to have a clearer view of what’s happening to her!

In England, the first weekend in May takes us to Urchfont in Wiltshire, but not to see a production of Kiss Me Kate. Every year, the village holds a charity scarecrow festival: residents make and display inventive strawy creations, usually around a given theme, and visitors are encouraged to identify the scarecrows. This year, the theme was ‘musicals’, and scarecrow no. 35 was a really tricky one:

Tricky, that is, because the image that still most defines the musical is currently so unfashionable. And that’s why, among many clever little details here, Lilli is wearing a #MeToo badge, so that all shades of opinion are represented!

May 5 saw the first performance of a partly modern-dress KMK at the Nordharzer State Theater in Germany, with another Trump avatar of Harrison Howell. Michael Rapke as Fred spanked Antje Rietz as Lilli on the seat of her jeans, though regrettably all we can show is the immediate aftermath:

In Lancaster, the local amateur society presented Kiss Me Kate May 8-12, with James Shields and Jess Turton:

The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra mounted a semi-staged production on May 19 and 20, with Ben Davis returning to the role of Fred, which he’d played not only in the London Proms in 2014, but also in Seattle only a few weeks before (in a production costarring Cayman Ilika as Lilli, which didn’t favor us with a spanking photo, or at least not one we’d like). This time his Lilli was Michele Ragusa, who first played the role professionally in New Jersey in 2008 (with her skirt and petticoats raised), and again in Buffalo in 2013, so she certainly knew what it entailed. And this time the ‘semi-staged’ nature of the show didn’t save her:

From June 16 to July 8, at Theater Hagen, Coesfeld, Germany, Kenneth Mattice played Fred and got to spank two alternating Lillis, Kristine Larissa Funkhauser and his real-life wife Emily Newton. Here’s the trailer:

The June 26-30 production by Durham Musical Theatre Company showed the spanking on the poster in discreet silhouette…

… but check out their publicity photos!

June 29-30 saw a raised-skirt production in Dusseldorf, starring Polanca Olszak as Lilli:

The after-effects are illustrated here:

This one also made it onto the poster:

In Jacksonville, Florida, KMK opened August 1 at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre, starring the lovely Tracy Bair as Lilli:

Here she is in costume as Lilli:

And here she is being spanked by Christopher Sanders:

In Texas, September 14 saw the opening of the Beaumont Community Players production, with Paul Vick and Victoria LeBlanc:

The production at Theater Bonn, which opened September 15 and played until January 5, was a coproduction with Theater Dortmund, and was largely a remount of the latter’s production of 2015, only with a new cast, including Oliver Arno as Fred and Bettina Mönch as Lilli.

Here’s the trailer:

The Broadway Theatre of Pitman, New Jersey, opened its production October 26, and it ran until November 18. Robert Newman was Fred, and Caitlin McKechney played her second Lilli of the year. And though it’s to be regretted that we don’t have pictures from the first, in June at the astonishingly named Virginia town of Onancock, we do have a pretty good picture of the spanking scene in Pitman:

Irving, Texas, had a KMK production from November 2 to 17, with a nicely bloomered Danielle Estes getting spanked by Jeff Wells:

On the other side of the Atlantic, November saw a Cole Porter season run by the University of Chichester at the Alexandra Theatre, Bognor Regis, which meant that for three days, 15-17, the indispensable Porter musical played, complete with the following indispensable scene:

And finally, it’s sad but important to note that the year saw the death of the last surviving creative contributor to the original Broadway show:

Patricia Morison, who created the role of Lilli, got spanked on and off across a staggering thirty years playing her, survived Cole Porter, Alfred Drake and both Spewacks – and made it to the ripe old age of 103. Hail and farewell!

Meanwhile, the year 2019 awaits us!

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