Review: Shrew! A Jazz Age Musical Romp

Shrew! 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; $15-$18. Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre, 7991 California Avenue in Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3683; Through September 17.

It is surprising how well the current Fair Oaks Theatre Festival production of Shrew! works. Set in the fashion world of 1930s Paris, the original Jazz Age musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew features many vintage songs (“What Is This Thing Called Love,” “Lovely to Look At,” et al.) while hewing to the Bard’s tale: A mother attempts to marry off her elder, contrarian daughter to make a more profitable match for her younger, sweeter offspring. The Taming of the Shrew was one of the first productions under festival artistic director Bob Irvin, who died last September, and this production of Shrew! was a long-held dream of his. He started writing the book for it before his death; it was finished by playwright Jennifer Longo based upon Irvin’s notes. Directed by Beth Duggan, the festival’s new artistic director, the play features three of Irvin’s great divas: Deane Calvin (as Baptista, head of the Baptista Minola fashion house), Brianne Hidden-Wise (as lovely daughter Bianca) and Analise Langford-Clark (as the strong-willed Kate). Eddie Voyce plays Kate’s suitor, Petruchio and Dan Slauson plays Lucentio, Bianca’s tutor and suitor. There have been stronger productions in the 35-year-history of the festival, but none more passionately pursued.