Holy mother of God! Adrian Dunbar wins rave reviews for role in Kiss Me, Kate which is branded a 'glorious and sizzling summer hit' as The Line Of Duty star is lauded for his singing talent

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Adrian Dunbar has won rave reviews for his role in the new theatre production Kiss Me, Kate which is now on at The Barbican.

The Line of Duty actor, 65, has been lauded for ‘actually being able to sing’ in the ‘glorious and sizzling summer hit’ which features music from American composer and songwriter Cole Porter. 

It’s a play-within-a-play farce focusing on a divorced couple of warring thespians, Fred Graham, played by Adrian, and Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie J. Block), who reunite to in the musical variation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. 

The pair, who have new relationships, slowly realise they have feelings for each other as the show descends into chaos. 

The Telegraph were seriously impressed giving it four out of five stars, with critic Marianka Swain writing: ‘Mother of God! Adrian Dunbar can actually sing!

Adrian Dunbar has won rave reviews for his role in the new theatre production Kiss Me, Kate which is now on at The Barbican

Adrian Dunbar has won rave reviews for his role in the new theatre production Kiss Me, Kate which is now on at The Barbican

It's a play-within-a-play farce focusing on a divorced couple of warring thespians, Fred Graham, played by Adrian, and Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie J. Block), who reunite to in the musical variation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew

It’s a play-within-a-play farce focusing on a divorced couple of warring thespians, Fred Graham, played by Adrian, and Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie J. Block), who reunite to in the musical variation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

‘I would freely admit that he acquits himself well in this glorious Golden Age spectacular. This cleverly retuned classic show has all the makings of a sizzling summer hit.’

The Guardian were equally glowing in their review with four stars too calling it an ‘exhilarating revival’, but were less positive about Adrian’s singing.

David Jays wrote: ‘Dunbar has some dapper moves and a pointed way with a lyric. Vocally he is, shall we say, brave casting for a role often taken by operatic baritones – less than wunderbar against rich-voiced Block. 

‘Few could match her pugilistic coloratura or the barn-burning gleam of her solo I Hate Men.

The Independent called it a ‘supremely silly evening of summer escapism’ and a ‘perfectly pitched revival’ as they also followed suit in giving in four stars.

Tim Bano wrote: ‘It’s becoming something of a formula: Cole Porter musical plus a couple of big stars, plus lavish set, equals lovely bit of summer escapism at the Barbican. 

‘Even if it doesn’t hit the same highs as Anything Goes – that was a better production of a better show – this is still a supremely lovely, supremely silly way to spend a summer evening.’ 

Elsewhere, The Times wrote: ‘This play-within-a-play take on The Taming of the Shrew at the Barbican is admirably witty, and the Line of Duty star exhibits a comic touch!’

The Line of Duty actor, 65, has been lauded for 'actually being able to sing' in the 'glorious and sizzling summer hit' which features music from American composer and songwriter Cole Porter

The Line of Duty actor, 65, has been lauded for ‘actually being able to sing’ in the ‘glorious and sizzling summer hit’ which features music from American composer and songwriter Cole Porter 

The Telegraph were seriously impressed giving it four out of five stars, with critic Marianka Swain writing: 'Mother of God! Adrian Dunbar can actually sing!'

The Telegraph were seriously impressed giving it four out of five stars, with critic Marianka Swain writing: ‘Mother of God! Adrian Dunbar can actually sing!’ 

The show centres on a 1940s production of Shakespeare's Italian comedy, The Taming Of The Shrew, which goes wrong when sex-war on stage spreads backstage, consuming the leading man Fred (Dunbar) and his ex-wife Lilli (Block)

The show centres on a 1940s production of Shakespeare’s Italian comedy, The Taming Of The Shrew, which goes wrong when sex-war on stage spreads backstage, consuming the leading man Fred (Dunbar) and his ex-wife Lilli (Block)

They branded Adrian’s casting as ‘unorthodox’ but said in terms of his singing that he ‘doesn’t disgrace himself’. 

The Daily Mail’s Patrick Marmion called it a ‘sexy, sassy revival’.

He said: ‘Opening in London last night, Bartlett Sher’s lip-smacking revival, starring Line Of Duty’s unlikely heartthrob Adrian Dunbar and Broadway diva Stephanie J Block, is a candy store of great songs, hot dancing, smart gags and glorious characters.’

On Adrian’s singing he added: ‘Luciano Pavarotti, he ain’t. But Dunbar’s Fred has a good resonant baritone, zinging with Ulster nasality for extra vibrato. 

‘And he’s got a great nose for comedy, too, with a frisky touch of Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm fame.’

The Evening Standard were less positive about the production, giving it three stars in their review.

Nick Curtis said: ‘Call it magic or call it pizazz, the mystery ingredient that makes a show truly sing is missing from Bartlett Sher’s revival of Cole Porter’s classic.

‘A musical about a warring couple mounting a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (itself a play within a play about a warring couple), this self-referential love letter to showbiz is structurally complex but should feel fizzy and light.

‘Here it’s solid, serviceable, but unexciting, thanks partly to the lack of chemistry between the leads.’

Veteran star Adrian, who plays tough-talking cop Ted Hastings in the BBC1 series, is the first to admit he’s ‘not a dancer’ but has dedicated himself to learning the routines needed for the production, the Cole Porter Broadway classic reimagined for a new audience.

Adrian admitted he’s been pestering his reps for years in a bid to land a role in a musical and fulfil a life-long ambition.

He said: ‘I’ve hustled my agents over the years, but they never really took me seriously about it.’ 

And he admitted there were plenty of nerves before opening night, adding: ‘It’s very, very exciting and scary.

‘But everybody’s telling me it’s gonna be fine. So I have to kind of wake up to that and just get on with the work.’

Adrian, who also stars in ITV drama Ridley, said he regrets not pushing his passion for musical theatre more, saying he ended up being consumed by hard-hitting TV roles instead.

He left school at 15 and went to work in a factory, before auditioning for Guildhall School of Music & Drama, which is part of the Barbican complex – where he returned to star in Kiss Me, Kate on its 15-week run.

On musical theatre, he said: ‘We did the first production of Merrily We Roll Along at the Guildhall [in 1983] — a very good production that transferred to the West End.

‘I wish I’d got a chance to do a bit more of that. And then I kind of forgot about it because I was from Northern Ireland, there was a lot of dark stuff that was happening, a lot of heavy TV, a lot of heavy theatre, so my theatre life went that way.

The Independent called it a 'supremely silly evening of summer escapism' and a 'perfectly pitched revival' as they also followed suit in giving in four stars

The Independent called it a ‘supremely silly evening of summer escapism’ and a ‘perfectly pitched revival’ as they also followed suit in giving in four stars 

The Evening Standard, however, were less positive about the production, giving it three stars in their review

The Evening Standard, however, were less positive about the production, giving it three stars in their review 

‘And so I forgot about music and musicals. It’s really nice that this is happening at this point in my life.’

Despite his move onto the stage, a potential return to his most iconic role in Line of Duty would still be hugely tempting.

The final sixth series aired in May 2021 but fans are desperate for more and Adrian hopes to one day reunite with co-stars Martin Compston and Vicky McClure to shoot a seventh instalment.

He recently told The Times: ‘We all want it to come back. We don’t want to be coming back when we’re in wheelchairs. Ted Hastings with a Zimmer frame.’

  • For tickets visit KissMeKateMusical.com
Kiss Me, Kate reviews

The Telegraph

Rating:

They say: ‘This cleverly retuned classic show has all the makings of a sizzling summer hit’

The Guardian

Rating:

They say: ‘Cole Porter’s musical variation on The Taming of the Shrew gets an exhilarating revival, even if the Line of Duty star’s singing is less than sensational’

The Independent

Rating:

They said: ‘It’s becoming something of a formula: Cole Porter musical plus a couple of big stars, plus lavish set, equals lovely bit of summer escapism at the Barbican’

The Times

Rating:

‘This play-within-a-play take on The Taming of the Shrew at the Barbican is admirably witty, and the Line of Duty star exhibits a comic touch!’ 

The Daily Mail

 They say: ‘Opening in London last night, Bartlett Sher’s lip-smacking revival, starring Line Of Duty’s unlikely heartthrob Adrian Dunbar and Broadway diva Stephanie J Block, is a candy store of great songs, hot dancing, smart gags and glorious characters’

The Evening Standard

Rating:

‘Call it magic or call it pizazz, the mystery ingredient that makes a show truly sing is missing from Bartlett Sher’s revival of Cole Porter’s classic’