By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today Theatre Critic
If you thought last week's Corpse was deadly funny, Lend Me a Tenor is hysterically and doubly funny. Laughter rolled and rolled in helpless gasps. People all around this reviewer were shaking with uncontrollable guffaws. Don't wear a belt. It will split in two.
A near perfect season
And so, with a slight nip in the air, the joy of summer closes the curtain on the six show season at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis. This has been an almost perfect selection of musicals, thriller, comedies, and a farce by artistic director, Evans Haile. In my opinion, five of the six were winners.
Lend Me a Tenor has been around since 1986. Community theatres everywhere can always count on this farce to draw and delight the crowds. Playwright Ken Ludwig has three pages devoted to his accomplishments in the program. In fact, the D.C. resident started out as a Harvard Law School student, who went on to graduate from Trinity College at Cambridge University. After practicing law, he turned his talents to playwriting. Crazy for You is one of his award-winning shows, based on the famous 1930 Girl Crazy Broadway show that catapulted Ginger Rogers to stardom. Staging An American in Paris is a recent effort.
A farce is soaked with mistaken identities and full of at least six doors in a set to confuse and produce endless hilarity. Lend Me a Tenor meets all the requirements. Set in 1934, the play revolves around a Cleveland Opera Organization that invites a famous Italian tenor to perform in the leading role of Othello, the opera. He arrives late, causing great consternation. The first act is pretty funny, but the second act spins at dizzying speed. My lips are sealed. You have to see it to believe it. If you've had a hard day, Tenor is guaranteed to be your bubbly champagne to intoxicate your funny bone.
Bouquets to director
Pamela Hunt has a definite gift for creating original stage business for comedies and farce. Last summer she gave us her technique in Sylvia (about a dog). Her curtain call was as well choreographed as the whole show--a clever recap of the whole show.
Eight incredible actors
This ensemble is well-matched. They play off of each other in perfect comedic harmony. When aspiring opera tenor, Max, (played by Hunter Foster) begins to warm up his voice, he holds the audience in the palm of his hand. Foster can actually sing, too. The super tall Steve Wilson gives the Italian tenor, Tito Merelli, an engaging accent, an enchanting seductive air, and a role he was careful not to overplay. Jeff Brooks as Saunders pulled up the pace with his first entrance. He may have prolonged a pause too much, but aside from that, he was both pompous and funny the way Ted Knight was in ":The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Even the bellhop, Michael Keyloun, held his own in the farcical gang.
The women also fit well into the farcical puzzle. Jennifer Cody's Maggie oozed adoration and innocent seduction as an opera fan for the tenor. Judith Blaze made a strong, however brief, impression as the forceful Italian wife, fed up with her husband's roving eye. Leah Hocking was slinky and hysterical as Diana, the tall blonde in the local opera company, who wants some praise from Tito. Virginia Seidel woos and wins us as Julia.
Set and costumes
Daniel Meeker's set has splendidly tall ceilings from the 1930s and thick moldings at the top. The chocolate and cream doors fit into the blue chiffon walls. The radio is a period piece as are the sconces. Costume designer Jose M. Rivera has captured the 1930s with double-breasted suits, argyle sweaters, bow ties, pleated trousers, and hints of post-flapper dresses.
Tenor is a delicious hoot. Don't miss it.
From Aug. 27 through Sept. 8. Monday through Saturday at 8:00pm. Matinees Wednesdays at 2:00pm; Sat. 9/1 at 4:00pm. Thursday 9/6 at 2:00pm. Cape Playhouse in Dennis. Call 508-385-3911.