Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors
Also see Mark's review of By The Bog of Cats
In this follow-up to Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, it is 1936 Paris and former Cleveland mayor, now opera promoter, Henry Saunders (Lou Will) has gathered an all-star opera cast to perform in a stadium next to the Paris Ritz Hotel. There is only one little problem. Only hours before the show is to begin, Henry's star singers suddenly begin to jump ship. First, the Swedish singer is called away due to the death of his mother. This forces Henry to recruit the up and coming star Carlo (Jacob Gaspar), who by coincidence has been dating opera star Tito Merelli's daughter Mimi (Leah Kraynak), who discovers that she is pregnant. Max (Jarrod Vullo) has married Henry's daughter, who is expecting their first baby any minute now back in New York City.
Meanwhile, Tito (Mark Rabkin) thinks his wife Maria (Jenny Erbs) is having an affair with Carlo, and he also quits. Things are looking grim for Henry until he hears the singing bellhop Beppo (Mark Rabkin) and convinces Beppo to join the show. Madcap shenanigans erupt when Beppo (who is Tito's twin) tries half-heartily to fight off an old flame of Tito's, Russian opera singer Racon (Susan M Wagner), with whom Tito had an affair in Paris before he met his wife. All this while the minutes to show time tick away.
While not quite up to snuff with the world premier at Cleveland Play House in 2015, this production runs a close second. The intimate set by Ron Newell has just enough room for the cast to work the wild chase scenes, and Lance Switzer's lighting design is bright and airy, adding to the clarity of the work.
The cast is energetic but seems to be a half-second late in the delivery. For those seeing the show for the first time, this may be barely noticeable. All in all, it is a delightful farce that everyone will find entertaining. Mark Rabkin as Tito/Beppo manages to distinguish the two roles through voice and mannerism to help the audience keep track of the two characters. Jenny Erbs as Maria is a firebrand, and she takes over the part completely. Jacob Gaspar plays the mistaken lover Carlo well, accepting the physical abuse piled on him very well. Leah Kraynak as Mimi is also well suited for her role. Susan M. Wagner as Racon oozes sexuality as she seduces Beppo. Jarrod Vullo plays the put-upon Max, who is trying to juggle too many things at once. As Henry Saunders, Lou Will brings all the bombastic bluster and deal-making necessary for the part. He is what moves the show forward.
If you wish to experience community theater at its best, look no further than Westlake, Ohio, for a rollicking comic farce. It is well worth the time and effort.
Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors runs through October 6, 2019, at Clague Playhouse, 1371 Clague Road, Westlake OH. For tickets and information visit clagueplayhouse.org or call 440-331-0403.