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Lend Me a Tenor
a Farce
by Ken Ludwig

COMPANY : Rosewater Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Rosewater Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3464

SHOWING : July 31, 2009 - August 29, 2009



It’s 1934 and the Cleveland Grand Opera Company is welcoming Tito Merelli, the world’s greatest tenor, for a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. As is often the case, the people surrounding this famous man all want something that they believe only he can give. Henry Saunders, the president of the company, wants the fame and fortune that this visiting maestro will bring his company. Julia Leverett, the president of the volunteer Opera Guild, wants to recapture some of her youth. Maggie Saunders wants to stretch beyond the confines set by her father. Max, Henry’s assistant, wants to learn all he can from Merelli in order to further his own singing ambitions. And, of course, Maria, Tito’s long-suffering wife, merely wants Tito to be a good husband.

Add a little phenobarbitol, duplicate Otello costumes and many slamming doors and you get a classic farce.

Director Jerry Jobe
Tito Joel Altherr
Diana Jackie Estafen
Maggie Shelley Johnson
Bellhop Evan McGill
Saunders Ron Ogden
Max Mark Olsen
Julia Julie Rhinehart
Maria Heather Yager
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Choreographed Mayhem
by playgoer
Saturday, August 22, 2009
First-time director Jerry Jobe has crafted a carefully choreographed farce in "Lend Me a Tenor." The handsome set, designed and built by G. Scott Riley, contains the requisite number of doors for a farce, and they are frequently used to comic effect (although some of the comedy comes from the cast not being sure which door will stick when it isn't supposed to, or crack open when it's supposed to be locked). But it's the action and the stage pictures that truly make this a choreographic tour-de-force.

All the ladies in the cast roster have romantic yearnings for opera star Tito Merelli, and they express them in provocative poses at appropriate points in the script. All the male members of the cast have their choreographic moments too, with some of the interplay between Saunders and Max approaching slapstick. The net effect is a heightened reality, all aimed at goosing up the laughs Ken Ludwig's script supplies in ample portions.

The performances all tie into the directorial vision, and there's not a single weak link in the cast. Heather Yager and Ron Ogden appear a little young for the roles they're playing, but their performances are just right for the characters they portray. Julie Rhinehart and Jackie Estafen both play elegant ladies with the appropriate mixture of coyness and flirtatiousness. Evan McGill, as the bellhop, plays his part with flair throughout, extending to the comically choreographed curtain call.

The main roles are Max, a timid factotum for a Cleveland opera company; Maggie, his would-be fiancee (if she had just accepted his proposal); and renowned opera star Tito Merelli. Joel Altherr uses his dark good looks, theatrical voice, and huge stage presence to fill the stage as Tito Merelli. Shelley Johnson, as Maggie, plays an outgoing, romantically eager foil to Mark Olsen's beautifully acted Max. All are excellent (although Shelley Johnson did break character for a moment and laugh at some imperceptible stage mishap in the performance I saw -- for shame, Shelley!).

The production itself is lovely to look at. The set, split into the two rooms of a hotel suite, is elegantly appointed, if a bit crowded when the full cast converges on stage. The costumes add immeasurably to the elegance, even if one is a retread from "The Producers." (But with the script comparing its look to the Chrysler Building, you can't blame costume manager Lisa Sherouse Riley for giving it the nod!)

All in all, "Lend Me a Tenor" is a fine production of a funny, well-written comedy. It's a fast-moving two hours of choreographed mayhem that is well worth a visit to the Rosewater Theatre. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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