In a Baltimore theatre, the cast of a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
rehearses for the opening of the show that evening ("Another Op'nin',
Another Show"). Egotistical director/producer/leading man Fred Graham
stars as Petruchio, and his movie star ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, is
playing Katherine. The two argue incessantly, and Lilli is particularly
angered by Fred's interest in the atractive young actress Lois Lane, who
is playing Bianca. After the rehearsal, Lois's boyfriend Bill appears;
he is playing Lucentio, but he missed the rehearsal because he was
gambling. He tells her that he signed a $10,000 IOU in Fred's name, and
Lois reprimands him ("Why Can't You Behave?").
Before the opening,
Fred and Lilli meet backstage, and Lilli shows off her engagement ring
from Washington insider Harrison Howell, reminding Fred that it's the
anniversary of their divorce. They recall the operetta in which they met
("Wunderbar"). Two gangsters show up to collect the $10,000 IOU, and
Fred replies that he never signed it. The gangsters say they’ll give him
time to remember it and will return later. In her dressing room, Lilli
receives flowers from Fred, and she realizes that she is still "So In
Love." Fred tries to prevent Lilli from reading the card that came with
the flowers, because he actually intended them for Lois. But Lilli takes
the card with her onstage, saying she will read it later.
show begins ("We Open in Venice"). Baptista, Katherine and Bianca's
wealthy father, will not allow his younger daughter Bianca to marry
until his older daughter Katherine is married. But Kate is shrewish and
ill tempered, and no man desires to marry her. Three suitors - Lucentio,
Hortensio, and Gremio - try to woo Bianca, and she says that she would
marry any of them ("Tom, Dick, or Harry"). Petruchio, a friend of
Lucentio, arrives, expressing a desire to marry into wealth ("I've Come
to Wive it Wealthily in Padua"). The suitors hatch a plan for him to
Kate, however, has no intentions of getting married
("I Hate Men"). Nonetheless, Petruchio attempts to woo her ("Were Thine
That Special Face"). Offstage, Lilli has an opportunity to read the
card. She walks on stage off-cue and begins hitting Fred, who, along
with the other actors, tries to remain in character as Baptista grants
Petruchio permission to marry Kate.
Offstage, Lilli furiously
declares she is leaving the show. However, the gangsters have
reappeared, and Fred tells them that if Lilli quits, he'll have to close
the show and won't be able to pay them the $10,000. The gangsters, at
gunpoint, force Lilli to stay.
Onstage, Bianca and Lucentio dance
together ("We Sing of Love"). Petruchio and Kate, newly wed, exit the
church, followed by the gangsters, now dressed in Shakespearean costume
as they keep an eye on Lilli. Petruchio implores Kate to kiss him, and
she refuses. He lifts her over his shoulder and carries her offstage
while she pummels his shoulder with her fists ("Kiss Me, Kate").
the show's intermission, the cast and crew relax in the alley behind
the theatre. Paul, Fred's assistant, along with a couple other crew
members, lament that it's "Too Darn Hot" to meet their lovers that
night. The play continues, and Petruchio exhausted from 'taming'
Katherine, mourns for his now-lost bachelor life ("Where Is the Life
That Late I Led?").
Offstage, Lilli's fiancé Harrison Howell looks
for her. He runs into Lois, and she recognizes him as a former lover
but promises not to tell Lilli. Bill is shocked to overhear this, but
Lois tells him that even if she is involved with other men, she is
faithful to him in her own way ("Always True to You in My Fashion").
Lilli tries to explain to Howell that she is being forced to stay at the
theatre by the gangsters, but Howell doesn't believe her and wants to
discuss wedding plans. Fred insidiously points out how boring Lilli's
life with Howell will be compared to the theatre. Bill sings a love song
he has written for Lois ("Bianca").
The gangsters discover that
their boss has been killed, so the IOU is no longer valid. Lilli
leaves—without Howell—as Fred unsuccessfully tries to convince her to
stay ("So in Love" Reprise). The gangsters get caught on stage and
improvise a tribute to the Bard ("Brush Up Your Shakespeare"). The
company prepares for the conclusion of the play, the wedding of Bianca
and Lucentio, despite Lilli’s absence. Just in time, Lilli enters and
delivers Kate’s final speech beautifully ("I Am Ashamed That Women Are
So Simple"). Fred and Lilli wordlessly reconcile on stage, and the play
ends with the two couples united (Finale).