Jan 16, 2016

10 Reasons Why "Kiss Me, Kate" is a Gay Classic

1. It's a musical about the backstage antics during a performance of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, which has a gay subtext.  The dissolute Petruchio comes to Padua to marry a woman for her money -- her looks are meaningless to him, as he spends a lot of time...a lot of time..with his male friends.

 2. As with most musicals, there are two romantic plots.  The "serious" one involves director/star Fred Graham and his costar Lilli Vanessi.  But their bickering romance is so ludicrously over-the-top that it's not serious at all:

Gazing down on the Jungfrau, from our secret chalet for two

The Jungfrau is the highest mountain in Europe. You can't gaze down on it from anything but an airplane.


3. The humorous plot involves gold-digging Lois Lane (silly name, but the elitist Porter had apparently never heard of Superman's girlfriend) and Bill, who would rather be gambling than spend time with her.

4. Author Cole Porter was gay, and infused his lyrics with coded -- and not so coded -- gay references for those "in the know."  For instance,  in"Too Darn Hot," among the various couples for whom the hot weather is impeding sexual activity:  The Marine for his Queen is not.

Marines were notorious for thinking of themselves as heterosexual as long as they were active partners in their relationships with the passive, gay-coded "queens."

5. Even when the lyrics aren't gay-coded, they're humorously  risque. For instance, in "Always True to You (In My Fashion)," Lois explains to Bill why she has sex for money:
I could never curl my lip
To a dazzlin' diamond clip,
Though the clip meant "let 'er rip," I'd not say "Nay!"

6. The 1953 movie features several famous beefcake stars, including Howard Keel (Fred, left), Bobby Van (Gremio), Tommy Rall (Bill), and Bob Fosse (Hortensio).

7. Two gangsters, Lippy and Slug, appear on stage to collect on a loan.  They sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," about using Shakespearean quotes to get girls:

If she says you're behavior is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus.

But their demeanor and body language makes it clear that they are a couple.

8. In the 1953 movie, one of the gangsters is played by Keenan Wynn, who was gay.


9. Watch the big dance number, "From This Moment On," for the superb choreography.  Then go back and watch it again.  In slow-motion.  You'll be in for a surprise.  Bob Fosse was quite gifted beneath the belt.

10. The other actors wear Elizabethan tights that are perfect for accentuate beneath-the-belt gifts, so you'll get several more surprises if you watch carefully.  Try it at your local community theater, too.

See also: All that JazzMy Fair Lady.