Theatre Mirror Reviews "Lend Me A Tenor"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Lend Me A Tenor"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Providence College is Ken Ludwig's Tony Award winning farce "Lend Me a Tenor". The show takes place in 1934 and revolves around renowned tenor, Tito Merelli, known to his fans as "Il Stupendo," who is scheduled to sing the lead in their opera, 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 is accidentally given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him down and he passes out. Saunders, the hard-ass General Manager and Maggie's father, is determined that the show must go on, so he asks his assistant, Max who is infatuated with Maggie, to impersonate the opera star. 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 majestic 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 as well as an opera loving bellhop to complete this 8 member cast. Jim Calitri directs this show with a keen eye for farcical situations, creating splendid sight gags and slapstick moments to keep the audience entertained all night long.

Jim keeps the show in constant motion and infuses his cast with the high energy necessary to pull off this well scripted farce. The marvelous unit set of a hotel suite from the 1930's is designed by Kathryn Kawecki while the authentic gorgeous 1930's costumes are by Amanda Downing-Carney, a costumer from Trinity Rep. The musical direction for the opera pieces is by David Harper. Patrick Mark Saunders leads the troupe in merriment and does a dynamite job as Max. He has a multitude of funny and clever lines, going from meek and mild assistant to forceful opera singer. His forceful portrayal comes when he imitates Tito finally winning the woman of his dreams. Patrick's tenor singing voice comes through in the operatic scenes and is wonderful especially in an aria with Tito in Act 1. He has many comic bits including the funny exercise scene with Tito, the comic double takes and finally 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 and he finally hears bells when kissing Maggie.

Daniel Caplin who also has a strong tenor voice is marvelous as "Il Stupendo", Tito Merelli. He use an Italian accent in this role and commands the stage in his scenes. Daniel displays a strong stage presence and has many funny moments including his argument with his hot tempered Italian wife, Maria, the double entendres, the mixed up happenings and when Tito and Max woo different girls at the same time. The scene stealer in this show is Grace Curley as Maria, the hot tempered Italian wife. This talented statuesque 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 suite and in and out of the bedroom. Grace's gestures and actions are priceless especially when she hisses at Tito in the first act and at Maggie and Diana after they ask who she is in the second. She receives many laughs with her hilarious antics.

The mean general manager, Saunders is played by Jeff DeSisto who does many slow burns as the comic character. He plays the role with high energy as this overbearing, blustery man. Saunders runs Max ragged, controls his daughter's life and orders the others around. One of Jeff's funniest scenes is when he chokes Tito in the bedroom scene as well as when he yells at Max. Gorgeous Aubrey Dion is topnotch as Maggie who has a crush on Tito as she reminisces about fainting when he kissed the palm of her hand. Aubrey plays the infatuated ingenue to the hilt as Maggie wants to have a fling before she settles down. Some of her funny moments include when Patrick's makeup rubs off on her face in the kissing scene and when Tito's signs an autograph for her, she mistakenly thinks he wants to make love to her. Erin Fusco is a hoot as Julia, the wealthy dowager. She is dressed in a gray gown which makes her look like the Chrysler Building. Erin's character is reminiscent of Margaret Dumont from the Marx Brothers movies. She has many funny lines as this Grande Dame and makes each of them count.Sexy brunette, Marissa Urgo shines as Diana, the soprano diva who slept with all the men in the opera company. Marissa's sultry voice and sexy poses to entice Max and Tito are hysterical and well done. One of her funniest bits is when she tells Tito her mother and father are professional like she is and he things her whole family are prostitutes. Kevin Lynch plays the opera loving Bellhop, shows he can deliver many funny lines in a farce. I last reviewed him in the "Hedda Gabler" where he played the doomed Loevborg. The recap scene at the end of the show is hysterical,too. So for a fabulous fun filled farce, be sure to catch "Lend Me a Tenor" at Providence College.

"Lend Me A Tenor" (27 January - 5 February)
@ Angell Blackfriars Theatre, Smith Center for the Arts, River Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide