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Lend Me A Tenor
a Farce
CATEGORY :
by Ken Ludwig

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4295

SHOWING : May 18, 2012 - June 10, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The time is September, 1934. The place is the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. World famous tenor Tito Morelli is to perform Otello, his greatest role, at the gala season opener. Through a hilarious series of mishaps and a double dose of tranquilizers, he passes out and is nowhere to be found. Is Il Stupendo dead? Who will go in his place? Considered by some to be one of the greatest farces ever written, this one will have you rolling in the aisles.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Robert Egizio
Costume Design Jim Alford
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Wig Design George Deavours
Music Direction Linda Uzelac
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Stage Manager Hampton Whatley
Lighting Design John David Williams
Bellhop Charlie Bradshaw
Saunders Mark Gray
Diana Megan Hayes
Maria Eliana Marianes
Max John Markowski
Tito Lawrence Ruth
Maggie Kelly Schmidt
Julia Karen Whitaker
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Fractured Farcitures
by Dedalus
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
4.5
A big event is imminent, and a �ringer� pro has been brought in. The pro backs out and has to be replaced by a talented young minion. Complications ensue, desperation mounts, and all can be saved by a single �Hail Mary.� To celebrate their hard-won victory, the cast does a 15-second recap of the entire story as an encore.

The fact that I was able to use the above paragraph to introduce my recent review of Ken Ludwig�s �The Fox on the Fairway� validates my original assertion that he�s fallen into a predictable rut. Or it could indicate he�s stumbled onto a formula that can hold an infinite number of stories. I�m inclined to believe the former, but, based on the results earlier at Aurora Theatre and now at Dunwoody�s Stage Door Players, I am more confident that the latter is the case. Both plays are fast-paced, side-splittingly funny pieces, tightly directed and exquisitely performed. Those feelings of déjà vu experienced by the current Ludwigfest are quickly drowned out by laughter at the antics at these too-obsessed, just over-the-top eccentric characters and the wonderful actors hiding behind them.

Welcome to Cleveland OH and 1934. The Cleveland Opera has planned a gala fundraiser, a one-night only performance of Verdi�s Otello starring the world-renowned tenor Tito Merelli (�Il Stupendo�). After a series of unfortunate events (you know the list � a jealous wife, a hidden fan, a talented minion, an accidental overdose, a misplaced corpse, too many tenors in black-face, too many lustful ladies, too many complications, too many slamming doors), the desperation level rises to absurd heights, the silliness goes over the rafters and through the roof, and the applause lasts almost as long as the echoes of laughter.

This play has been very popular with regional and community groups since its arrival more than 25 years ago (this is the fourth production I�ve seen, and my lovely and talented spouse has been in enough of them to play three of the four female roles), and it�s easy to see why. Tightly-written characters that never grow tiring, fast-paced segments of dialogue that are almost physical in their choreographed sound bytes, absurdly contrived farcical situations (exactly how likely is it that one amateur tenor in blackface can fool both his fiancée and the opera-obsessed audience of Cleveland?), and just enough singing to satisfy some of our we-sorta-kinda-like-real-(�legitimate�)-singing pretentions � what�s not to like?

And Stage Door�s Robert Egizio has cleverly staged the whole thing with an eye toward absurdity (a set with doors with a formal look that suggests tuxedos) and with a cast that finds every comic note and belts them all through the roof. John Markowski is delightfully sheepish as Max, the opera manager�s assistant. At least he�s sheepish until he gets to hide behind the Otello-face, at which time his exuberance and his love of singing propels him over the top. If his singing his more musical-comedy belt than operatic every-tone-is-perfectly-formed, it can be forgiven. Squeaky-voiced Kelly Chapin Schmidt is marvelous as Maggie, Max�s Tito-obsessed fiancée. Megan Hayes, Mark Gray, Karen Whitaker, and Charlie Bradshaw provide terrific support, and Larry Ruth is a Tito that is beautifully over-the-top pompous and dim. And I REALLY enjoyed Eliana Marianes as Tito�s ever-jealous wife Maria, a woman whose every line is an aggrieved shout-out to those who inflict upon womankind the injustice of a (shudder) husband. She is so over-the-top and so pull-out-the-clichés Italian that every line is a comic delight. This is, in fact, a beautifully effective ensemble, much greater than the sum of its parts, and its parts are pretty good to begin with.

So, this is a beautifully-performed farce that throws in some sly commentary on the nature of artists (and �artistic� fans), a tightly-written word-and-gag-fest that delights the ears as it dazzles the eyes, and a valentine to opera, to laughter, and to the over-talented amateurs we know lurk behind the scenes in every artistic ensemble. It�s a story that does not overstay its welcome, or lose its appeal even after multiple productions. And it�s a troupe of actors and a production team in peak form, creating a marvelously memorable evening, whose overture is a medley of all the staple ingredients of the best comedies and farces.

All I can say after seeing this, is, �Encore!�

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Lend Me a Kleenex; My Eyes Are Watering from Laughing so Much
by playgoer
Monday, July 16, 2012
4.5
Stage Door Players is putting on a production of Ken Ludwig's "Lend Me a Tenor" that rivals Aurora Theatre's concurrent production of "The Fox on the Fairway" by the same author. Both have plenty of comic situations and slapstick bits. Both have terrific sets and costumes, and both have sparkling performances and tight direction.

The set of "Lend Me a Tenor," designed by Chuck Welcome, is an art deco delight. The layout mimics that of "Unnecessary Farce," with a knee-high dividing wall down the center of the stage, separating the two visible rooms of a hotel suite. Doors line the walls, with wonderful timing of double door slams at several points in the show.

Costumes, by Jim Alford, and wigs, by George Deavours, set the period. The slightly brittle, stylized acting of a farce also grounds the action in bygone years. Sound (Dan Bauman) and lighting (John David Williams) point up all the right moments. Musical direction by Linda Uzelac can't turn two actors into two opera stars, but she makes them sound creditable in their duet.

Director Robert Egizio has put together a comically consistent world of the Cleveland Grand Opera, populated by bigger-than-life personalities. Charlie Bradshaw is a stagestruck bellhop with little stage time, but lots of bits of upstaging business as he minces about the set. Mark Gray brings polish and power to his role of impressario Saunders. Megan Hayes delights as the over-sexed Diana, matched nicely by Karen Whitaker as the slightly older, slightly more genteel Julia. Kelly Chapin Schmidt brings wide-eyed eagerness to the ingenue role of Maggie, playing opposite rubber-boned John Markowski as the manic, irrepressible Max. Eliana Marianes gives a tour-de-force performance as the passionate Maria, wife of opera superstar Tito Merelli. Only Larry Ruth, as Tito Merelli himself, seems a bit underplayed in comparison to the cacophany of vibrant personalities that surround him onstage.

The play is funny throughout, but reaches its peak in act two, scene one, when all the complications come to a head. The casting of Tito and Max works well when they are both onstage in matching costumes and makeup. The mistaken identities and farcical situations cause laughter to simmer, then erupt in frequent belly laughs. This show's a treat to see and a joy to experience. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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