Lend Me A Tenor – Westchester Broadway Theatre – Theatre ReviewPublished: Tuesday, January 7, 2020 By: Gerry Falco Source: The Theatre Guide
The Westchester Broadway Theatre begins its winter season with “Lend Me a Tenor”, running through January 26th, 2020. The play was originally written by Ken Ludwig and was produced in 1986. It appeared on Broadway in 1989 and was nominated for a number of Tony Awards. There was also a Broadway revival in 2010. This particular dinner theatre production is directed by Harry Bouvy.
The play is a simple farcical comedy involving eight players and one set. It isn’t a large production. There are no dance numbers and very little song (despite the title). But there is lots to like. The setting is a hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934 occupied by world-famous tenor Tito Morelli (Joey Sorge). He is slated to give a grand performance for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. Through a series of crazy mishaps, Morelli is unable to perform. The nervous general manager of the opera, Henry Saunders (Philip Hoffman) tries to cover for the missing opera star by having his assistant Max (J.D. Daw) dress up in costume and secretly perform the lead role in Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. Max is in love with Saunders resistant daughter Maggie (Molly McCaskill), and naturally, the remainder of the female cast is either in love with “Il Stupendo” Tito Morelli or trying to enhance their careers through him. This includes his fiery Italian wife Maria (Kathy Voytko), the Chairwoman of the Cleveland Opera, Julia (Tregoney Shepherd), and the lead opera soprano Diana (Hanna Jane McMurray).
Trying to conceal Tito Morelli’s absence and Max as his replacement leads to unexpected and overlapping consequences that are mostly played out through comedic timing and sight gags. Some of this comedy is dated, but other parts are truly funny. As mentioned earlier, there is little in the way of song, however, there is a duet performed by Max and Tito Morelli that is truly arresting. Both actors have excellent tenor voices that blend very well together. One misgiving was that these beautiful voices were not further displayed. A scene featuring Max performing at the opera house would have enhanced the play greatly.
The flow of the play is reminiscent of an episode of “I Love Lucy”, and there was something Groucho Marx-like in the performance of the harried opera manager Henry Saunders who is well played by Mr. Hoffman. That being said, the role of “Julia” is much like the old-time society straight woman played by Margaret Dumont in many of the Marx Brothers films. Kudos to Ms. Shepherd for bringing this character to life. The other roles are also well casted. Ms. McMurray could not have been more vamp-like in the role of the aspiring soprano Diana, and Sam Sefarian in the role of a bellhop added to the humor by popping in and out of scenes while belting out some of the lines of the opera.
The costuming (designed by Kieth Nielsen) is rich, elegant and nicely representative of the art deco era. The single set hotel suite (designed by Steve Loftus) consists of two adjoining rooms facing the audience. A series of doors at the rear of these rooms constantly open and close concealing one or more cast members in a human shell game. The simultaneous action in both rooms keeps the audience engaged. The lighting (designed by Andrew Gmoser) subtly adds to the various moods of the plays. The sound design by Mark Zuckerman is excellent as it allows every line to be clearly understood by the audience.
The play is offered in two acts with a running time of two and a half hours including a half-hour intermission. The play doesn’t pretend to be an extravaganza, but if you are a fan of the theatre, you will enjoy this one.