“Kiss Me Kate” (1948), one of Porter’s most successful shows (1,077 performances) and his most fully integrated book musical, was packed full of gold standards; “Another Op’nin, Another Show”, WunderBar, “So in Love”, “Too Darn Hot”, “Always True to You in My Fashion”, “Brush up Your Shakespeare” and “Why Can’t You Behave”. He described the score as “so simple it sounds as if it had been written by an idiot child”.
Based loosely on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” the producers had great difficulty raising enough money to actually stage the original production. After scores of auditions, the $ 180K needed to mount the show was squeezed out of 72 angels, but even then none of the blasé Broadway crowd took the project seriously. Interestingly, in the history of American musicals “Kiss Me Kate” was the only one where they didn’t have to touch a scene or a song. The show was previewed in Philadelphia and to everyone’s astonishment, it received rave notices and sold out consistently. The New York opening was also a smash hit. Was this the perfect musical success? “Almost,” Cole was reported to have said. “Then unfortunately along came a little thing call South Pacific.”
“Why Can’t You Behave” is sung by Bianca to her boyfriend who leads a gambling lifestyle, which results in his owing money to a gangster, but he has signed over an IOU in the name of the other male lead in the play. Bianca laments his bad-boy lifestyle in this cute song. If you listen to enough renditions of it you realize that almost every singer avoids one of its more “controversial” lines **:
“There’s a farm I know near my old home town, Where we two can go and try settlin’ down. There I’ll care for you forever, ** Well, at least ‘til you dig my grave” ** Oh, why can’t you behave?”
Here are two memorable versions performed by Jo Stafford and Ella Fitzgerald.