'Lend Me a Tenor' opens Friday at Gainesville Community Playhouse


The comedy “Lend Me a Tenor,” with Laura Jackson as Maggie Saunders, front, Henry Wihnyk as Henry Saunders, back left, and Michael Glover as Max, opens Friday at the Gainesville Community Playhouse.

Elise Giordano/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 11:33 a.m.

It's opening night at the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, and the leading man, famous Italian tenor Tito Merelli, is feared dead in his hotel suite. Henry Saunders, the opera's general manager, is beside himself — his show is ruined.

Facts

'Lend Me a Tenor'

What: Ken Ludwig's comedy about an Italian opera star's planned appearance with a Cleveland opera company
Where: The Gainesville Community Playhouse at the Vam York Theater, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
When: Opens Friday, previews tonight and runs 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 28
Tickets: $16 adults, $12 students and seniors with I.D.; $5 for tonight's preview
Info: 376-4949
Note: The Vam York Theater features a Loop Hearing Assist Device that allows patrons with property-equipped hearing aids to hear the show's audio through their hearing aids.

What follows is a night of slamming doors, mistaken identity and double entendres in “Lend Me a Tenor,” the comedy that opens Friday at the Gainesville Community Playhouse.

“It's a show that doesn't hit the audience over the head with any type of message, it's just funny,” said Henry Wihnyk.

Wihnyk plays the self-important and bullying Saunders, who has hired Merelli, known to his fans as “Il Stupendo,” to star in his company's production of Verdi's “Otello.” After the divo gets into a fight with his hot-tempered wife, Saunders orders his assistant to give Merelli a tranquilizer-laced drink. The drink is accidentally made as a double, however, putting Merelli into a deep sleep and leaving Saunders frantically looking for a replacement.

The play takes place entirely in the sitting room and bedroom of Merelli's Cleveland hotel suite, separated by a wall, over the course of one night in 1934. Throughout the play, the audience can see what is happening in each room simultaneously.

Much of the show's comedy comes from characters frantically running in and out of the set's six doors, said director Carlos Asse.

Asse said the play is a classic example of farce, a style of comedy marked by mistaken identities, meltdowns and romantic affairs.

“When all these things meld together, chaos ensues,” he said. “The audience is in on the joke.”

To do a farce right, however, you need the right cast, Asse said.

“You need a very skilled set of actors with very good comedic timing, and this group is great at that,” he said.

Jan Cohen, who plays opera guild chairwoman Julia Leverett, said she feels that Asse is the perfect person to helm this production.

“He's a brilliant director,” she said. “He is so astute about milking every comic possibility out of every line.”

Cohen describes her character as ambitious and flirtatious, if not very bright.

“Each character in this show is bigger than life, but still believable at the same time,” she said.

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