Kiss Me, Kate is a stage musical by Samuel and Bella Spewack (book) and Cole Porter (music and lyrics) that ran for 1,077 performances and was first performed in New York on December 30, 1948. It was made into a popular 1953 MGM musical film (see below). It is roughly based on William Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew, where the main characters are actors in a stage production of that play — the show within a show oeuvre.
Kiss Me, Kate was a comeback and a personal triumph for Cole Porter. After several successful musicals in the 1930s, notably Anything Goes, Du Barry Was a Lady, and Panama Hattie, he experienced a terrible accident in 1937 which left him in continuous pain. Following the accident he continued to write songs and musicals but with limited success, and some thought he was past his prime. Kiss Me, Kate was a response to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, and other integrated musicals, and was in fact his biggest hit, receiving five Tony awards in 1949 (and again in its revival in 2000), and the only Cole Porter musical to have more than 1,000 performances on Broadway.
Kiss Me Kate tells the tale of two once-married, now-divorced musical theater actors, Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, who are performing opposite each other in a Broadway-bound musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, in the roles of Petruchio and Katharina. Already on poor terms, the pair begin an all-out emotional war midperformance when Lilli discovers Fred sent his latest fling, Lois Lane, Lilli's wedding bouquet. (Lois plays the role of Bianca in "The Taming of the Shrew".) The only thing keeping the show together are threats from a pair of gangsters: Lois's steady boyfriend (and the show's Lucentio), Bill Calhoun, loves to gamble, and to avoid the responsibility of paying his debts, has signed Fred's name to an I.O.U. Gangsters have come to collect on it, and this show will provide the money that Fred needs to avoid getting his fingers broken. Fred, in turn, uses the gangsters to prevent the furious Lilli from walking out on the show after she discovers that the wedding bouquet was really meant for Lois and throws a tantrum, prompting Fred to literally spank her onstage. In classic musical comedy fashion, madness ensues, and both pairs of lovers are ultimately reconciled. Fred and Lilli presumably re-marry.
MGM musical film
It was made into a film musical in 1953 by MGM, starring Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson and also Ann Miller and Tommy Rall as the leading couples. It costarred Keenan Wynn, James Whitmore, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney, Bobby Van and Jeanne Coyne. Hermes Pan was the nominal choreographer, but Fosse also choreographed some of the dances. Unfortunately, nearly all of the rather risqué lyrics had to be "cleaned up" to avoid the wrath of the censors, thus dulling much of the comedy and making the results rather bland. The song "Too Darn Hot" was also changed from being a tap specialty sung by several African-American singers to a tap specialty sung and danced by Ann Miller. The song's lyric was also the victim of the censors. "Brush Up Your Shakespeare", the most directly suggestive song in the entire score, was cut in half to avoid its raciest lyrics.
The movie was filmed in 3-D using the most advanced methods of that technique, then available. Devotees of the stereoscopic 3-D medium usually cite this film as one of the best examples of a Hollywood release in polarized 3D.
There have been three television productions of "Kiss Me, Kate", and two of them have also had their lyrics "cleaned up". A 1958 production, seen on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, starred the two leading members of the original Broadway cast - Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. The second production, in 1968, starred the then husband-and-wife team of Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence. The third television production , shown in 2003 on Great Performances, was not an adaptation, but a direct broadcast of the London production of the successful 1999 Broadway revival. Brent Barrett and Rachel York were the stars. Nothing was cut or censored from this version.