note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Richard Pacheco
The current production at Ocean State Theatre is feisty and full of energy, loaded with laughs thanks to strong direction and excellent performances. The Ken Ludwig comedy received nine Tony nominations when it played in New York. The play is set in 1934 in Cleveland for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company.
The Cleveland Grand Opera Company has booked the famous Italian tenor Tito Merelli to sing the lead in Verdi's "Otello." But Merelli takes an extra dose of sedative to calm down and they think he is dead. In a fit of panic, the head of the opera house, Henry Saunders sends his relentless assistant, an aspiring opera singer, Max, off to pretend to be Merelli and sing in his place. In the middle of this mess, Merelli wakes up and now there are two men in blackface and Othello costumes running around the hotel, darting in and out of bathrooms and closets to avoid an irate wife and some horny female opera singers. It all grows increasingly outrageous with each passing minute.
Nick Gaswirth is Max. the wannabe opera star and assistant. He is mild mannered and insecure expect for caring about Maggie, Saunderís daughter and about being passionate about singing opera and being a star. Gaswirth is right on the mark as the timid man propelled into the middle of his wildest dream by a quirk in circumstance.
The imported Italian Opera star Tito Merelli is a total womanizer, a man of talent and huge appetites, mostly sexual. He is a hopeless flirt and his actions infuriate his wife constantly firing her hot temper to new explosions of rage and distrust. Bruce Sabbath is Merelli and he plays him with panache and flair, full of energy and as a relentless womanizer.
Although this is not a musical, there is a point where Gaswirth and Sabath sing a Verdi suet together and it is well done, very enjoyable.
Alexander Cook is Saunders, the head of the Cleveland Opera. He is the epitome of classic restraint except when he loses it when he thinks Tito is dead. He is a sharp, hard edged businessman and Cook plays him well, full of firm confidence and a sense of control.
Gerianne Genga is Merelliís flamboyant and passionate wife with her jealous streak, Maria. She is a bundle of energy and raw passions as she rants and rambles about with her jealously running amok. Genga is right on the mark in the role, a madcap mixture of passion and zest.
Elizabeth Boyke is Maggie, Saunderís daughter who is intrigued fascinated and in awe of the famous Merelli, opera star. She wants to have a fling before she settles down with Max, so why not with a famous opera star? She is an innocent held spellbound by the pull of famous star, attracted into his orbit, under his spell. Boyke is wonderful as the innocent wanting to go awry for a famous fling.
Rochelle Weinrauch is Diana who sings opposite Merilli as Desdemona, and is enamored of him as much as Maggie. She is enticing and seductive, shimmering an elegance and finesse and high style as she zooms in like a black widow to get what she wants. Weinrauch is delightful in the role, full of zest and sultry finesse.
Maria Tavarozzi is Julia, a snooty grand supporter of the opera. Tavarozzi is a delight in her sliver wig and haughty demeanor, a joy to watch.
Finally is Kevin Broccoli as the opera loving bellhop, whose passion for opera nearly exceeds those of the singers. Broccoli is a comic gem in the role bringing just the right touches to it with superb comic timing.
The direction by Kevin Pariseau is impeccable and meticulous. He is always aware of pace and keeps it moving merrily along. It is sheer fun from beginning to end, a delight to watch.
The hotel art deco set by Amanda Hall and the costumes by Ryan J. Moller are sheer delight, true to era and exquisite.
Lend Me a Tenor" runs through April 19 at Ocean State Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. Tickets are $34-$49. Call (401) 921-6800, or visit oceanstatetheatre.org.