A concert staging of a classic musical not only provides a second chance to hear a favorite show, it tests the show's power to entertain by reducing it to its core--the words and music or, to get even more basic, two boards and a passion. In a good show that reduction can only enlarge. Last year Marshall Productions staged a highly successful concert performance, in a one-night stand, of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. This year's performance (a two-night stand), of Kiss Me Kate, boasts a dream cast--brought only too temporarily together--who should bring affection and authenticity to Cole Porter's musical. The musical-within-a-play, with its behind-the-scenes peek at the temperamental couple who threaten to upstage The Taming of the Shrew (Porter was spoofing the real-life spats of Broadway stars Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne), is cleverly reset here as a live 1949 broadcast from a Chicago radio station, which should relieve some of the stasis of the concert form. Heading the rich cast of seasoned local performers are Mary Ernster and Darren Matthias as the feuding thespians. Richard Hoffman conducts a 23-piece orchestra, including musicians from the Lyric Opera and the Grant Park Symphony; Suzanne Petri and William Brown direct. At the Civic Theatre, July 23 and 24 (20 N. Wacker, 327-5252). Monday and Tuesday, 8 PM. $20-$24.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jennifer Girard.

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