The Stanton Prep drama students once again left their Northside campus to bring a play to the stage of Theatre Jacksonville in San Marco Square. At the end of 2010, they presented the musical farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. The most recent production was also a farce, Ken Ludwig’s award-winning Lend Me A Tenor, which was on the boards February 10, 11, and 12.
Lend Me A Tenor has been a comedy choice for many high school and college groups, as well as community and dinner theatres, since its debut in 1986, when it was nominated for nine Tonys. The 2010 revival on Broadway was very successful and resulted in three Tony nominations including Best Revival of a Play.
The story takes play in 1934, when a famous Italian tenor, Tito Merelli (Nathan Dennis), comes to Cleveland for a one-night performance of “Otello.” He is a world-renowned performer, with a prodigious appetite for drink, food, and women. Unfortunately, Tito passes out and is presumed dead. But this is the gala season opener and the show must go on.
Max (William Baxley) who has a lowly position as the personal assistant to the company’s general manager Saunders (Tiernan Middleton), is in love with his daughter, and has dreams of being a star. An opera star. After some forcible urging by Saunders, who is desperate to save his job, Max agrees to don Otello’s costume in blackface to perform the role for the sold-out audience.
Ludwig tosses other interesting characters into this hilarious farce, filled with slamming doors and mistaken identities. There is Maria (Shelby Ellis) Tito’s hot-headed and jealous Italian wife and Maggie (Priscilla Brubeck), Saunders’s very attractive daughter who is flighty and pursues Tito, bedazzled by his fame and the opportunity for romance.
Obioma Ezinawa played Julia, the Chair of the Opera Guild, with an assured grace. Ash Tilak played Diana, the company’s lead soprano, attractive and shameless, who succeeds in compromising the real Tito in a zany bedroom scene. Rounding out the cast is the rubber-faced Jake Higdon as the star-gazing hotel bellhop, who has some fine comic moments.
The ending is a bit silly, but then again so was the whole show which was written to keep you laughing for two hours and certainly succeeded in that.
The actors were all wonderful in their roles and played well off each other. Director Shirley Sacks emphasized the all important pacing that is essential to make this kind of farce work, with results that were evident to the appreciative audience.
The impressive art deco hotel suite set was built by Stanton’s stagecraft classes at the school and transported to Theatre Jacksonville. The set had bright turquoise walls, with furnishings that included art deco designs, and other period touches, such as a vintage telephone.
Players by the Sea’s production manager, set designer and director, Lee Hamby designed the costumes that reflected the era and defined the characters. For example, the women wore flowered georgette dresses, as well as elegant formal gowns, while Max appeared in a plaid vest and bow tie. The remarkably versatile Mr. Hamby is playing the lead in the upcoming Alhambra production of Hairspray.
It appeared that all the cast of Lend Me A Tenor are seniors, and the Dual Critics have seen most of them in other shows in the past three years, going back to their TJ production of Urinetown.
Thanks, Stanton Prep for a sparking rendition of this crackling comedy. It was as good as any Tenor we’ve ever seen. We’re looking forward to the next production.