William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ — a Weird (and Bad) Rock Version

Golden West’s rock ‘n’ roll version of “The Taming of the Shrew” is like a shotgun marriage between Shakespeare and “Grease.” It’s not a happy union.

In fact, this concoction is a pretty good argument for all those traditionalists who get nervous when anyone tampers too much with the Bard. Director Stewart Rogers turns Shakespeare’s familiar comedy upside down, larding it with a spate of ’50s tunes and a mystifying revamping of the play’s time-tested characters.

He’s obviously aiming for wacky and fun but comes up with trying instead. I didn’t last beyond the intermission at Sunday’s matinee.

Rogers takes the story of the headstrong Kate, the willful Petruchio and their battle-scarred romance and plunks it in an Italian restaurant in Chicago during Elvis’ heyday. A “Godfather” element, supposedly for comic effect, hangs over the production, most obviously with Baptista, now transformed into a Don Corleone clone.

Then there’s the musical part, conceived by Rogers and Howard Mango. Seemingly out of nowhere, the cast starts singing (not always capably) such rock oldies as “Love Me Tender,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Shout” and “Little Darlin’.”

Some of Shakespeare’s poetry finds its way between the songs, but not much. Even then there’s been an updating of the language to reflect the period. We’re treated to references to Bette Davis and Sandra Dee, as well as phrases such as “Chicago, my kind of town.”

All this just obscures the pleasure of “The Taming of the Shrew.” The lyricism is neutralized and, on a more simple level, the story has been turned into chaos. Rogers was probably hoping this madcap approach would appeal to a younger audience, but the kids at Sunday’s show looked more bemused than anything.

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