Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lend Me A Tenor"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Lend Me A Tenor"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Granite Theatre is ''Lend Me a Tenor'', a Tony Award winning farce by Ken Ludwig. Set in September, 1934, the show revolves around renowned tenor, Tito Merelli, known to his fans a "Il Stupendo," who is scheduled to sing the lead in Otello, produced as a fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. Unfortunately,even before the star leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel. Chaos ensues when Merelli's hot tempered Italian wife, Maria has mistaken Maggie, an autograph-seeker hidden in his closet for a secret lover, leaves Tito a "Dear John" letter. The distraught Merelli accidentally is given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him down and he passes out. Saunders, the hard-ass company's General Manager and Maggie's father, is determined the show must go on for his own financial sake, so he asks his assistant Max who is infatuated with Maggie, to impersonate the opera star. Max puts on blak-face make required for the role of Otello, and his disguise succeeds admirably until something shocking occurs. What follows is a chain reaction of mistaken identity, plot twists, double entendres, innuendoes, and constant entrances and exits with slamming doors on the unit hotel suite set. Throw in Diana, the opera diva soprano and Julia, the chairman of the board of the opera company who both pursue Merelli and an opera loving bellhop to complete this 8 member cast. Director Lee Rush does a fabulous job with this show creating sight gags and slapstick moments to give the show the necessary ingredients for the comic romp.

Lee blocks the madcap farce beautifully, obtaining the best from her cast. She is aided in her task by her hard working stage manager Barbara Collins while Tai Schevetta runs the lights and sound. The gorgeous art deco hotel room suite is designed by David Jepson and is so realistic looking you'd want to move into it. Matthew Royality-Lindman leads the troupe in merriment with his clever dialogue, giving a winning performance in this role. He goes from meek and mild assistant to a forceful opera singer when he imitates Tito finally obtaining the woman of his dreams.Matt has many clever bit including running in out of doors, comic doubletakes and being very suave as Tito when he finally seduces Maggie. Chris Mahn is topnotch as Tito Merelli. He plays the part with an Itallian accent and a strong stage presence. They have many funny moments especially the double entendres and the mixed up happenings when they woo different girls at the same time on opposite sides of the stage.

The mean general manager, Saunders is played by Christopher Maxwell. He captures the hard edge of this character but infuses him with many comic moments including jumping on top of Tito as he is passed out on the bed. Danielle Conti. a pretty brunette plays the young virginal, Maggie who wants to have a fling before she settles down. She gives this infatuated ingenue a backbone to stand up to her overbearing father while she thinks she is in love with Tito. Maggie says she wants Tito's autograph and as he signs the letter for her, she thinks he wants to make love to her. Maggie finally after all the craziness around her realizes it is Max she truly loves after all. The love making scene builds to a climax with operatic music as she and Max do it on the pouffe and Tito and Diana do it in the bedroom on opposite sides of the stage, obtains the biggest laugh of the night.The hot tempered Italian wife, Maria is played by Veronica Strickland. She obtains many laughs while running rough shod over the other characters.

The opera loving bellhop is excellently played by John Cillino. He has some of the best lines in the play and makes them all hit paydirt. John is extremely energetic in this role, uses splendid facial expressions and has great timing. He obtains many laughs at his hilarious antics. One of the funniest scenes is when Saunders tries to choke him to death and they all pose for a photo.The opera soprano, Diana who plays Desdemona and has slept with all the men in the cast is beautifully played by sexy and sultry brunette bombshell, Rochelle Weinrach who wears a long red wig. Diana wants to join an opera company in New York and wants Tito to help her out but he misunderstands, thinking her whole family are prostitutes. Rochelle is a hoot as this sex crazed diva and wears a very sexy gold lame gown. The wealthy doweager, Julia is splendidly played by Deb Bacewicz who wears an hilarious outfit to make her look like the Chrysler Building and wears a gray wig, playing this much older character. She has many funny lines as this snooty Grande Dame but it is when she pursues Tito in the bedroom which wins her many laughs. So for a fun filled farce, full of sexual escapades and hilarity, be sure to catch "Lend Me a Tenor".

"Lend Me A Tenor" (24 June - 17 July)
THE GRANITE THEATRE
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1(401)596-2341

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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