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"

by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Newport Playhouse is Ken Ludwig's Tony Award winning farce "Lend Me a Tenor", The show revolves around renowned tenor, Tito Merelli, know to his fans as "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, she 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 that 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 the black-face make up required for the role of Otello, and his disguise succeeds admirably until something shocking happens. 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. Sandy Cerel directs the show with a keen eye for farcical situations, creating sight gags and slapstick moments. Stage manager Danielle Davis keeps things running smoothly all night long while the gorgeous unit set of hotel suite was built by Fred Davison.

Sandy keeps the show in constant motion and infuse her cast with the high energy needed to pull over the well scripted farce. Nishan Lawton wears black hornrimmed glasses and leads the troupe in merriment, doing a dynamite job as Max. He has a multitude of funny and clever dialogue, going from meek and mild assistant to forceful opera singer when he imitates Tito finally obtaining the woman of his dreams. Nishan's tenor singing voice soars in the operatic scenes and is superb especially in an aria with Tito in Act 1 which sends chills up your spine. He has many comic bits including the comic exercise scene with Tito, funny double takes and plays the suave lover when he finally seduces Maggie. One of his best moments comes when he finally stands up to the overbearing Saunders, becoming the mouse who roared at the lion. Jonathan Keene who also has a fabulous tenor voice is marvelous as "Il Stupendo", Tito Merelli. He uses an Italian accent in this role and commands the stage in his scenes, displaying a strong stage presence. Jonathan has many funny moments especially his argument scenes with his hot tempered Italian wife, Maria. Other funny moments include the many double entendres, the mixed up happenings and when he and Max woo different girls at the same time. Nishan and Jonathan have the best musical voices I have ever heard in this show. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Camille Terilli as the hot tempered Italian wife who has a perfect Italian accent. This talented red haired actress is terrific as she runs roughshod over Tito threatening that she will make him a soprano if he doesn't stop fooling around with other women. She commands the stage with the other characters making them quake in their boots while chasing them around the sofa and out of the bedroom. Camille's gestures and actions are priceless especially when she snarls at Maggie and Diana after they ask who she is. She receives many laughs with her hilarious antics. Camille and Jonathan play off one another perfectly like a real life married couples with their spats. The talented Patty Mott plays Maria at alternating performances.

The mean general manager, Saunders is David Adams Murphy. He plays the role in an over the top manner and is full of high energy every time he enters the stage. One of David's funniest moments come when he chokes Tito in the bedroom scene and another when he yells at Max. Gorgeous brunette Erin Sylvia is topnotch as Maggie who has a crush on Tito and fainted when he kissed the palm of her hand. She plays the infatuated ingenue to the hilt in her debut performance at the playhouse. Maggie wants to have a fling before she settles down and her kissing scene with Nishan when he is in blackface is hilarious when the make up rubs off on her face. Also funny is when she wants Tito's autograph and when he signs one for her, she mistakenly thinks he wants to make love to her, taking her dress off and throwing herself at him. Sexy red head Christine Lariviere with banana curls, is marvelous as Diana. She wears slinky gowns as the vamp who has slept with all the men in the opera company. Christine is a hoot as this sex crazed diva who throws Tito on the bed to have her way with him while Maggie throws Max down on the sofa. These scenes left the audience in stitches as did the scene where Tito thinks her whole family are prostitutes. The wealthy dowager, Julia is splendidly played by Helen Mirren look alike Cindy Killavey. She wears a silver lame gown with a train which makes her look like the Chrysler Building. Cindy has many funny lines as this Grande Dame and makes them all hit pay dirt. Fernando Ramos is a hoot as the opera loving bellhop. He has many funny insulting lines to Saunders and makes them very comical as he continually tries to get Tito's autograph. The recap scene at the end is hysterical, too. So for a fantastic fun filled farce, full of sexual escapades and innuendos, be sure to catch "Lend Me a Tenor" at Newport Playhouse. You will enjoy an all you can eat buffet before the show and a spirited cabaret entertainment after the show.

"Lend Me A Tenor" (9 July - 21 August)
NEWPORT PLAYHOUSE
@ 102 Connell Highway, NEWPORT RI
(1(401)247-4200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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