Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Lend Me a Tenor
Hale Centre Theatre

Also see Gil's review of Murder for Two and The Producers

Danny Karapetian and Stephen Serna
Ken Ludwig's hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor is a favorite of regional theatres due to the play's tightly constructed plot, larger than life characters, and the belly laughs the door-slamming incidents deliver. The comedy took Broadway by storm in 1989, receiving nine Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play. Hale Centre Theatre's production features a well-equipped cast, tight direction, and impressive creative elements.

It's 1934, and Tito Morelli, the world famous tenor, has been booked to perform Otello at the Cleveland Opera Company. After accidentally receiving a double dose of tranquilizers and drinking too much wine, Tito passes out and is believed to be dead by Max, the nervous assistant to the opera's company manager Saunders. Fearing all is lost, and dreading having to return the ticket sales money if they are forced to cancel, Saunders comes up with a plan and enlists Max to help him out of his bind. A series of incidents involving mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and multiple slamming doors sets a chain reaction in motion and hilarity ensues.

The "theatre in the round" aspect of Hale's production means the usual British farcical nature of slamming doors is lessened a bit, since the doors are set fairly far back from the main playing area. Some of the more quick-paced and exact precision aspects of the play, when characters would usually leave through one door and another character almost instantly appears through another, aren't as impressive since the doors aren't close enough to each other to make the impact of the effect work. However, director Alaina Beauloye still manages to enlist plenty of humor in the proceedings, with adept staging and her comically gifted cast. Leading the charge is Danny Karapetian as Max. Karapetian has the right demeanor for the nervous Max— with his soft voice, fidgeting hands, and tense nature, he assuredly brings the meek character to life. As Tito, Stephen Serna expertly portrays the larger than life opera star with a lovable vibrancy. Serna brings a sweetness to the part that is touching and his confused facial expressions and body language when things start to get crazy are hilarious.

The rest of the cast are all quite effective. As the high-strung Saunders, Mark Hackmann achieves an appropriate air of authority, even though hardly anyone ever listens to him, which forces him to shout and yell at just about everyone. As Max's girlfriend/Saunders' daughter Maggie, Emilie Doering is a charmer, especially in the way she becomes giddy at the possibility of meeting Tito. Tina Khalil is appropriately feisty as Tito's long suffering wife Maria, while Laura Soldan is charming as the sweet yet pushy chairman of the Opera Guild. Kellie Dunlap is seductively direct as the soprano Diana and Vinny Chavez is a hoot as the assertive bellhop who would do just about anything to meet Tito.

Beauloye's direction keeps the action moving, with good use of the many entrances and exits throughout the theatre, yet also allows a few moments for the sweet nature of the characters and situations to come through. Creative elements, as usual at Hale, are excellent. David Dietlein and Brian Daily's set design incorporates beautiful art deco motifs and, with the simple use of a half door, manages to include one of the play's important doors right in the center of the stage without blocking any audience member's view of the action. A nonstop parade of striking period perfect suits, tuxes and gowns, including stunning ones for the ladies, shows Mary Atkinson's continual excellent, and sometimes amusing, costume design abilities. Jeff A. Davis' lighting design adds a lovely sense of time of day to the hotel suite the play is set in and provides the appropriate focus in the scenes set in the various rooms of the suite.

Combining a great plot, fun characters, and zany situations, Lend Me a Tenor is a gem of a play. Exact precision and exaggerated characters are two of the most important elements of a successful farce and the Hale Centre Theatre production has excellent direction and a more than capable cast to provide plenty of laughs in this well written comedy.

The Hale Centre Theatre production of Lend Me a Tenor runs through February 14th, 2015, with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling (480) 497-1181.

Directed by Alaina Beauloye
Set Designers: David Dietlein and Brian Daily
Costume Designer: Mary Atkinson
Lighting Designer: Jeff A. Davis
Wigs & Make-Up: Cambrian James
Stage Manager: Justin Peterson

Max: Danny Karapetian
Saunders: Mark Hackmann
Tito Merelli: Stephen Serna
Maggie: Emilie Doering
Julia: Laura Soldan
Maria: Tina Khalil
Diana: Kellie Dunlap
Bellhop: Vinny Chavez

Photo: Nick Woodward- Shaw /Hale Centre Theatre

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix

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