Review: 'Lend Me a Tenor' full of comedic action
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:45 p.m.
Life's lessons from “Lend Me a Tenor.”
'Lend Me a Tenor'
What: Ken Ludwig's comedy about an Italian opera star's planned appearance with a Cleveland opera company
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 29
Where: Gainesville Community Playhouse at the Vam York Theater, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
Tickets: $16 adults, $12 students and seniors with ID
Info: 376-4949, www.gcplayhouse.org
You can't smooch somebody wearing greasepaint and expect to be discreet about it.
Never trust a guy in tights.
Stay away from the shrimp mayonnaise if it's gray instead of pink.
Hey, you want deeper insight into the human condition? Go see a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's “Otello.” You want a few laughs, a pleasant evening of light comedic diversion? Get yourself over to the Gainesville Community Playhouse and catch Ken Ludwig's 1986 classic farce “Lend me a Tenor.”
Here's a thumbs up from special guest critic and UF history professor emeritus David Chalmers (as related during intermission): “In your review say the cast is brimming with energy and they deserve an overflow audience.”
There you go, readers.
As it happens, “Otello” looms large in this cockeyed tale of Mickie Finns, mistaken identities, flung flings, slamming doors (naturally, it's a farce) and girls popping in and out of closets and bathrooms like Whack-a-moles.
The action takes place in a two-room hotel in Cleveland in 1934. The city's creme de la creme is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Tito Merelli (aka Il Stupendo) the famous Italian tenor who is to perform “Otello” with the Cleveland Grand Opera Company.
But Il Stupendo is known to have a passion for vino and bosoms, and so Opera Company manager Saunders assigns Max — flunky, gofer and all around dogsbody — to babysit Tito and get him to the stage on time and sober.
Turns out, Max nurses a couple of burning passions of his own. To sing tenor himself, and to make love to Maggie, Saunders' daughter.
Alas, Maggie finds Max boring and longs to throw herself at — who else? — Tito. Complications ensue when Tito shows up with a jealous wife, his co-starring soprano, Diana, shows up with a plan to sleep her way to stardom and Max resolves to calm the tempestuous tenor by lacing his Chianti with phenol-barb, unaware that Tito has already done a double-dose to chill himself out.
Next thing you know, Tito is slipping into the sleep of the dead, Max is slipping into Tito's Otello wig and costume, and Maggie and Diana are slipping in and out of closets and bathrooms like ... well, you know.
What happens next is funny stuff. And much credit is due to the backstage crew for a cleverly constructed set that allows the audience to simultaneously view the comedic action in the bedroom and the adjoining sitting room.
Esteban Alvarez III is wonderfully expressive as the volcanic Il Stupendo; think Zero Mostel without the toga. The best moments of the play occur when Alvarez teams up with Michael Glover's much-put-upon Max as soul-mates in suffering. The chemistry between these two actors makes their pivotal scenes a pleasure to watch. And their tenor duet deserves a “Bravo!” in its own right.
And who knew that shaking your booty is the secret to operatic success? I thought it was practice, practice, practice.
Also worthy of special mention is Kristin Mercer's scheming soprano Diana, who wears her smooch-smudge like a badge of honor; Katelin Hall, as the explosively enraged wife Maria; and Henry Wihnyk, who imbues Saunders with the same jaded, cynical panache that he brought to last season's GCP production of “Moonlight and Magnolias.”
Throw in Laura Jackson as Maggie, the ingenue looking to shed her annoying innocence; Jan Cohen as Julia, the aging socialite who still longs for lust; and Ian Isom doing a Jerry Lewis-like bellhop, and it's clear that director Carlos Francisco Asse has put together a cast that ... well, brims with energy, as Chalmers said.
Oh yes, and if you miss something the first time, don't worry. This obliging cast will happily run through the whole thing for you again at the end.
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