A Cranford starlet will light up the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center this July in Kiss Me Kate. Erica Morreale, fresh off her turn in the Cranford High School production of Oklahoma!, stars as promiscuous actress Lois Lane. The production, a collaboration between NJPAC and the New Jersey Youth Theatre, runs from July 15th through the 24th.
Kiss Me Kate is the classic Cole Porter musical about romantic entanglements, misunderstandings and Shakespeare. The show is a play-within-a-play, following the chaotic personal lives of the cast of The Taming of the Shrew. The musical proved to be Porter’s biggest hit, earning him the first Tony Award for Best Musical. The NJPAC/NJYT production features the talents of 29 New Jersey performers, ranging between the ages of 16 and 23. Putting on production with such a storied history can certainly put pressure on young actors, but Morreale believes the cast’s youth will make the performance all the more memorable.
“We were watching the revivals and tours, and they’re all a lot older—they’re all the ages that the characters are supposed to be,” she said. “I think we bring a new, fresh look to the production and a younger view. We bring it more modern.”
Morreale became involved in the production through the encouragement of her acting teacher, director Cynthia Meryl. Despite her instructor’s motivations, Morreale had reservations about auditioning. NJPAC productions frequently draw the top performers the state has to offer, and Morreale was unsure if she would measure up to the company’s high standards.
“I was super nervous,” she said. “I knew I was on the younger side; I was 16 when I auditioned. I knew there were a lot of talented people that were auditioning. It was kind of intimidated, kind of scary.”
Upon winning the role, Morreale’s fears were quickly dispelled. She found her cast mates to be as friendly as they were gifted, but the road to rehearsal was not an easy one. Kiss Me Kate’s directors demand high quality in all facets of performance, requiring actors to be a “triple threat” in acting, singing and dancing. It is this level of professionalism that makes the NJPAC Summer Musicals so masterful, and pushed Morreale to perform to the best of her ability.
“My favorite part is working with all three of the directors, [Musical Director Ilene Greenbaum, Assistant Director Sherry Alban], and Cynthia,” she said. “All of them expect you to be on your game for everything. It’s not just the dancing or the singing; you have to do it all together and it has to be up to caliber.”
Morreale portrays actress Lois Lane, who stars in The Taming of the Shrew as the demure Bianca. Off stage, Lois isn’t quite as innocent—her flirtations with multiple men put her in some hot water, especially with boyfriend Bill Calhoun. One of Lois’ famous numbers, the buoyant “Always True To You,” chronicles her many affairs while insisting that her loyalty and love will always remain with Bill. Morreale delighted in playing a character whose personality was so wildly different from her own.
“It’s kind of funny to play something like that because it’s so not like my regular person,” she said. “It’s really a challenge because it’s so different.”
Though Lois’ wantonness was not something Morreale could relate to, she connected with the character for her outspokenness and desire to seek out what she wants.
“She’s kind of out there and she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind,” Morreale said. “She’s not a timid person. I can relate to that because I’m not afraid of doing things that are outrageous.”
Kiss Me Kate opens at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater on July 15th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $30. For performance times or to purchase tickets, call 1-888-466-5722 or visit www.njpac.org.