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Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

A Comedy of Tenors
Cleveland Play House

Rob McClure and Bradley Dean
Nothing could be more exciting than a new play by Ken Ludwig. And the good news is that a new Ludwig play is coming your way: A Comedy of Tenors just opened the 100th season of the Cleveland Play House and runs through October 3, 2015. This is an appropriate opening for the theater company that only a few months ago received the Regional Tony Award.

The new script evokes memories of Ludwig's successful Lend me a Tenor. The plot deals with Saunders (Ron Orbach), who is producing a concert in Italy with three tenors. Tito (Bradley Dean) is the lead tenor. He and his wife Maria (Antoinette LaVecchia) arrive with only a few hours to spare before the concert. Tito has all of the ego one might expect of a great Italian tenor. Carlo (Bobby Conte Thornton) is becoming one of the great tenor stars of the Italian opera and, of course, Tito is jealous of him. The plot gets more complicated when it's revealed that Carlo is having an affair with Mimi (Kristen Martin), who is Tito and Maria's daughter. Max (Rob McClure) is Saunders' friend, helper, and the third tenor.

At the start of the second act, a bellhop delivers Tito's luggage and begins singing. This is the best tenor the group has heard and, yes, he bellhop agrees to sing in the concert. But, this character looks so much like Tito that Maria and Tatiana Racón (Lisa Brescia), thinking he is Tito, quickly show a physical interest.

The show may be set in Italy, but the many slamming doors on the stage reminds one of a French farce. A Comedy of Tenors is Ludwig at his comedic best.

Bradley Dean plays two characters with appropriate lechery, and has mastered the quick costume change. He earns gasps from the audience for being able to make appearances on opposite sides of the stage within seconds of each other and, oh, yes, a costume change, too.

The entire cast is superb, without a weak link, keeping the nonsense moving at a breakneck pace.

But everything is held together by the spectacular work of Stephen Wadsworth (director), one of the best directors working today. He has directed the classics, Shakespeare, Moliere, Mozart, and Shaw, and has had three operas in repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera. And now, he has brought his talents and experience to focus on Ludwig's new delightful comedy.

With Ludwig's plays, the audience knows all will end well. The fun is in watching the plot unravel to get to that glorious ending.

The curtain call is typical of Ludwig, with the cast performing the play again at an unbelievably fast pace.

Ludwig's work has appeared in six productions on Broadway and seven in London's West End. He has had international success with Lend Me a Tenor, Moon over Buffalo, Crazy for You, Twentieth Century (adaptation), Shakespeare in Hollywood, and others. Ludwig and The Cleveland Play House have a certain affection for each other. Ludwig premiered The Game's Afoot at the CPH in 2011, and now, he's introducing A Comedy of Tenors here.

Unfortunately, all good things must end. Or in the theater, all good shows must close. But just around the corner is the CPH's production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible (October 10 through November 8), then A Christmas Story (the play) "in all of its pink-bunny-suit, glowing-leg-lamp, triple-dog-daring glory" (November 27 - December 23).

A Comedy of Tenors, Cleveland Play House, through October 3, 2015, at the Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115. Tickets and information: call 216-241-6000 or visit

Playwright: Ken Ludwig
Saunders: Ron Orbach
Max: Rob McClure
Maria: Antoinette LaVecchia
Tito: Bradley Dean
Carlo: Bobby Conte Thornton
Mimi: Kristen Martin
Tatiana Racón: Lisa Brescia
Scenic Designer: Charlie Corcoran
Costume Designer: William Ivey Long
Lighting Designer: David Lander
Sound Designer: Joshua Horvath
Fight Director: Shad Ramsey
Vocal Coach: John Simmons
Direction by: Stephen Wadsworth

Photo: Roger Mastroianni

- David Ritchey

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