Ken Ludwig's comedic farce of mistaken identity, Lend Me A Tenor, originally opened on Broadway on March 2, 1989 at the Royale Theatre, and it ran for 476 performances. It received seven Tony Nominations, winning two for Best Direction and Best Actor. Playwright Ken Ludwig is also the author of Moon Over Buffalo, books for the musicals Crazy For You, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the 2004 adaptation of the play Twentieth Century.
Lend Me a Tenor takes place in 1934, where The Cleveland Grand Opera Company awaits the arrival of guest singer Tito Morelli. Hailed as possibly the greatest operatic tenor of his time, Tito (also known as "Il Stupendo") is to perform the title role in their gala performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Otello.
Autumn Horne, Terrell Hardcastle, Elizabeth Dimon, Peter Haig, Bruce Linser,
Kim Ostrenko, Connie Saloutos, Allan Baker
The action takes place in Tito's upscale Cleveland hotel suite. Prior to his arrival, we meet the ill-tempered general manager of the opera company, Mr. Saunders, and his assistance, Max. Max has been dating Mr. Saunders' daughter Maggie for three years. Though he has proposed marriage to her, she has not yet accepted as she longs for flings unflung and the bells she has yet to hear when they kiss. At the hotel, Mr. Saunders and Max anxiously plan out the evening ahead, while Maggie daydreams of Tito as one would a matinee idol.
Tito arrives at the hotel with his hot-headed wife Maria in tow. It seems that Tito is a lover of wine, woman and song, and his wife is understandably wary of his roving eye. Weary from his travels, arguments with his wife, and too much food, Tito is strongly in need of rest and relaxation before his evening performance. He is distracted by an attention-seeking bellhop, a solicitous chairwoman of the opera guild, and a flirtatious soprano. Maria finds Maggie hiding in the closet in hopes of meeting Tito. Maria angrily stomps out, leaving behind a good-bye note for Tito.
Max slips Tito some pills with his wine to help him sleep before the show, not knowing Tito has taken several already. Max and Mr. Saunders are later unable to wake Tito for his performance, and mistake Maria's good-bye note as a suicide note from Tito. Believing Tito to be dead, they plot to have Max go on as Tito in the evening's performance so that the opera company will not be financially ruined. Max dons the costume, wig and dark makeup of Otello and heads to the theatre. He is unrecognizable, and sings so well that all are fooled.
Back at the hotel, Tito has regained consciousness, gone to the theatre, and been mistaken as an impostor. The theatre calls the police, Tito takes a swing at one and barely escapes back to the hotel in wig, costume and make-up identical to Max. Comedy follows as our flirtatious soprano, in hopes of sleeping her way to the top, attempts to seduce Max, believing him to be Tito. He escapes into the arms of Maggie. She too believes him to be Tito, with whom she at last hears her long awaited bells. Meanwhile, Julia, Mr. Saunders, and the bellhop all mistake Max for Tito. Alas, poor Tito, still fuzzy from the pills, has no idea what is going on. Nonetheless, he manages a brief tumble with Diana before his wife returns to give him a second chance. Since Maggie realizes she loves Max, Maria forgives Tito, and Mr. Saunders and Julia have a successful gala, all is right in the end.
Scenic Designer Tm Bennett has provided a lovely art deco set for this show, done in shades of green and blue. It also gives us a clean layout for all the slamming doors, and hurried entrances and exits in the play. At the performance attended, the cast navigated its way through the confusion nicely, with the exception of one purse left onstage by Maggie in the second act that should have exited with her.
Allan Baker as Tito is wonderfully puffed with bravado in the first act and deflated with bewilderment in the second act. Connie Saloutos is fiery and passionate as Maria. Though her Italian accent sometimes lapses into a Spanish one, her marital arguments with Tito are scarily believable. Peter Haig enjoyably bristles, glowers and cackles his way through the show as Mr. Saunders. Elizabeth Dimon is the epitome of the fussy, rich old lady of the time period. Autumn Horne as Maggie manages to avoid being the trite ingenue that is the pitfall of this role.
Bruce Linser as the bellhop is best described as perky, but missing the comedic mark. This character is meant to be over the top. The choices made by the actor and/or director provide an ambiguous characterization that should have been much funnier. Both the costumer and director have wandered off the track with Kim Ostrenko as Diana. Diana is supposed to be voluptuous. The director has male actors doing takes to Miss Ostrenko's body to reflect that. The end of the show even has Diana placing Mr. Saunders' face in her cleavage. Though she is a lovely woman, Miss Ostrenko simply does not have the bosom implied. The costumes should have provided what nature may have not, in order to follow though with the comedic intent. That is what good costuming does.
The weight of this show rests comfortably on the shoulders of Terrell Hardcastle as Max. Unlike the show's title, he is a baritone, not a tenor, and he does not have a voice that is best suited for opera, but put all that aside. He manages to make Max appear three-dimensional in a show that might have him be just a nerdy nice guy. After all, Max rises to save the day and win the girl, how much of a nerd can he be? His performance, teamed with some fine performances by fellow cast members, a good looking set design, and clean staging make this a comedy worth seeing. (Pay close attention to the curtain call staged as a show synopsis!)
Production dates of Lend me A Tenor at the Caldwell Theatre Company are July 19 - August 13, 2006. For tickets to this and other shows, you may contact the Caldwell at 561-241-7432 or on line at: www.caldwelltheatre.com.
The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. They are located at 7873 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487-1640 in the Levitz Plaza. Look for the theatres' proposed relocation to their new space in the North Boca Village Center, where it will be housed in the Count de Hoernle Theatre.
* Denotes a member of Actor's Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.