Tag Archives: Charlie Stemp




KISS ME, KATE at the Barbican


“This is a blazing production, burning with wit and charm, song and dance, and with a feelgood finale that is far hotter than a British summer”

We are officially in summer in a couple of days’ time, although it might not necessarily feel like it. But a couple of bars into the overture of Cole Porter’s classic, “Kiss Me, Kate” and the clouds disappear. We are instantly put in a good mood, unable to resist the warmth and the joie de vivre this sizzling and silly musical has to offer. Porter is on top form, complemented brilliantly by Sam and Bella Spewack’s book which adopts Shakespeare’s ‘play-within-a-play’ trick, taking its subterfuge to new heights.

Both ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ have gathered accusations of misogyny over time, but if you look deeper, the bard and the songsmith are, in fact, championing women’s rights. And Bartlett Sher’s revival brushes off any remaining crumbs of sexism that may linger with this revival. The sheer force of the two leading ladies’ performances, of course, helps immensely.

The show opens with a curtain call. One that is being rehearsed for the opening night of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Fred (Adrian Dunbar), the egotistical director and producer, is starring as Petruchio while his ex-wife, Lilli (Stephanie J. Block), plays Katherine. The two bicker constantly, like Burton and Taylor on a bad day, yet Dunbar and Block effortlessly reveal the deep-seated, hidden love and affection they still hold for each other. The only casualty here is the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ dynamic – we just know from the off that they’ll eventually reconcile, despite Lilli being betrothed to a strait-laced, regimental General Harrison Howell (a delightful cameo from the underused Peter Davison).



Meanwhile Lois (Georgina Onuorah) and her gambling, misbehaving boyfriend, Bill (Charlie Stemp), are enjoying their own backstage tussles. Not least because there’s a thing going on between Lois and Fred. The shenanigans don’t stay in the green room, however, but are dragged kicking and screaming onto the stage, playing havoc with Shakespeare’s storyline. Throw in a couple of gangsters chasing a gambling debt (Hammed Animashaun and Nigel Lindsay), and the farce is complete.

It is a star-studded production, with an equally starry ensemble. Everyone has a moment to glow in the spotlight, yet nobody outshines anyone else. Each swing, and chorus member, portrays a well-defined, unspoken personality too. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography is stunning, not just visually but also in its storytelling, reaching its climax in the Act Two opener, ‘Too Darn Hot’, which elicited an ovation that finally had to be cut short by the performers themselves, worried that they might miss the last train home.

Matching the dancing skills are the vocal skills. Georgina Onuorah and Stephanie J. Block mix power with fragility, wit with emotion. Onuorah’s show-stopping ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’ is another highlight, while Block’s ‘So in Love’ is steeped in gorgeous torment. Slightly out of his depth, Adrian Dunbar reprises the number. He can hold a tune, for sure, but his vocal shortcomings do stand out against the sheer wall of virtuosity he is surrounded by. Dunbar’s own virtuosity is confined to his character acting and comic timing which is, indeed, spot on. Hammed Animashaun and Nigel Lindsay, on the other hand, are a double act with a triple threat, showcased by their superbly comic performance, and brilliant rendition of ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’.

Catherine Zuber’s costumes perfectly mirror the various elements of the show, mixing the eroticism of the backstage, sultry and sexy glamour with the onstage Elizabethan grandeur. Michael Yeargan’s revolving set seamlessly guides us through the stage door onto the stage, via the dressing rooms and back again. This is a blazing production, burning with wit and charm, song and dance, and with a feelgood finale that is far hotter than a British summer. While it’s definitely not too darn hot outside, inside the Barbican, it’s sizzling.


KISS ME, KATE at the Barbican

Reviewed on 18th June 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson






Previously reviewed at this venue:

LAY DOWN YOUR BURDENS | ★★★ | November 2023



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Charlie Stemp to Make Broadway Debut

Stemp thespyinthestalls

Producer Scott Rudin announced today that Charlie Stemp, whose stunning debut in Half A Sixpence “has taken the West End by storm” (The Evening Standard), will make his Broadway debut as Barnaby Tucker in the most successful and beloved Broadway production of the year: Hello, Dolly!.

Mr. Stemp will begin performances opposite the previously announced stars Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber on Saturday evening, January 20, 2018, prior to a Thursday, February 22 opening night. Taylor Trensch will play his final performance as Barnaby Tucker on Sunday, January 14 ahead of taking the lead role in Dear Evan Hansen.

Mr. Stemp’s turn as Arthur Kipps in Half A Sixpence has been called “one of those fairy-tale performances that’s the stuff of legend” (The Sunday Telegraph). He has been universally praised by critics as “a huge find” (The Telegraph), who is filled with such “undiluted charm” (The Daily Express) and “magnetism” (New York Post), that “you just have to sit forward and stare” (The Times of London) at his “megawatt glow” (The Evening Standard) – which contains “enough energy to light up the West End” (The Daily Mail).

Charlie Stemp will replace Taylor Trensch (shown above) as Barnaby Tucker in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Photo by Julieta Cervantes
This production of Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! instantly became the most coveted ticket of the year when it broke the record for best first day of ticket sales in Broadway history. By the time it began previews, it had the largest pre-performance advance sale in Broadway history. It went on to win four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Bette Midler), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Gavin Creel), and Best Costume Design of a Musical (Santo Loquasto), and has continued to break the Shubert Theatre house box office record over and over and over and over again.
Directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle, Hello, Dolly! began performances on Broadway on March 15, 2017, and officially opened on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
This Hello, Dolly!, the first new production of the classic musical (based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker) to appear on Broadway since it opened more than fifty years ago, pays tribute to the work of its original director/ choreographer Gower Champion, which has been hailed both then and now as one of the greatest stagings in musical theater history.
Mr. Stemp is appearing with the permission of Actors’ Equity Association. The producers gratefully acknowledge Actors’ Equity Association for its assistance to this production.

Stemp Broadway

Charlie Stemp as Arthur Kipps in ‘Half a Sixpence’ Photo by Manuel Harlan
Charlie Stemp (Barnaby Tucker) garnered unprecedented critical acclaim for his star-making performance in the West End revival of Half A Sixpence. The production premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre and transferred to the West End in 2016, where it received rave reviews. For his performance as Arthur Kipps, he was nominated for the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical, the 2017 Carl Alan Performer’s Award, and was honored with the 2017 WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Musical. In addition, for the Chichester production, he received a 2016 UK Theatre Award nomination for Best Performance in a Musical. Mr. Stemp made his professional debut in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, before playing Eddie in the international tour of Mamma Mia!. He was born in London and graduated from Laine Theatre Arts.