The Alhambra Theatre and Dining opened its funniest show of the year with Ken Ludwig’s classic farce “Lend Me A Tenor.” As a special treat, in the cast is Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H TV fame. “Lend Me A Tenor” was nominated for nine Tonys after its debut in 1986 and awarded two, for Best Actor and Best Director, while the 2010 revival resulted in three Tony nominations.
The story takes place in 1934 and features a famous Italian tenor, Tito Merelli (Steve Osborn), a world acclaimed performer with a prodigious appetite for food and women, who comes to Cleveland for a special one-night performance of “Otello.” Unfortunately, he passes out from an overdose of tranquilizers and wine and is presumed dead. The opera’s general manager, Sanders (Jamie Farr), hoping to save the evening and his job, insists that Max, a shy, faint-hearted errand boy who has been practicing operatic arias must don blackface makeup and costume to perform the role for a sold-out audience.
Playwright Ludwig has tossed a number of interesting characters into this hilarious farce that has the usual mistaken identities, slamming doors, and lingerie-clad females.
There is Maria (Lisa Valdini) Merelli’s jealous and hot-blooded wife and Maggie (Dee Lab), Sauder’s very attractive but flighty daughter who swoons after Tito with lust in her eyes.
Deborah Smith is Julie, the high society opera board patron who is also enamored with Tito and is distinctively dressed, in a gown perhaps inspired by the Chrysler Building, topped with a tiara.
Kelly Adkins plays Diana, who is Tito’s Desdemona in the opera and tries to use her considerable physical charms to get Tito to help advance her operatic career.
Completing the cast is Michael Ursua the persistent star-gazing hotel bellhop who keeps popping in and out, providing some very funny situations.
As you would expect with a farce, there is the usual happy ending after the play rolls merrily along with high-energy unexpected twists for two hours. And for a curtain call, “Lend Me A Tenor” features a two-minute pantomime of the entire play that is worth the price of admission.
Mr. Farr, who has been in show business for fifty seven years, displayed great charm and great comic timing as Saunders.
The Dual Critics have seen this show a number of times, and often in the past, the musical excerpts from Verdi have been done by lip sync. Not at the Alhambra, for Matt Watson as Max, is not only an excellent comedian but an opera star with an impressive resume who has performed with a number of notable opera companies. We knew Steve Osborn could act especially in comedies, but had forgotten what a great voice he has, since it has been a number of years since we saw him at the Alhambra as Emile De Becque in “South Pacific.” The Max and Tito short duet is hilarious and impressively operatic.
The art deco hotel suite by Set Designer Dave Dionne has simple clean lines, and includes a sitting room and bedroom, with vintage green walls and blonde wood furniture. Six doors are also included, for all those entrances and exits.
The costumes by the Costume Crew fit the period and the setting, and included sumptuous gowns and formal wear.
Unlike some plays that take time to get started, “Lend Me A Tenor” will have you laughing from the first few lines through the frenetic second act with all its delightful shenanigans.
“Lend Me A Tenor” runs through October 16th, if you like to laugh you are going to love it. Director Tod Booth has the superb cast necessary for a fast paced show that requires critical timing.
Next up at the Alhambra is the timeless classic “My Fair Lady.” If you have never been to an Alhambra Gala Opening night, you ought to consider it. It is scheduled for the first Friday of the show’s run and is always very special. The red carpet is rolled out for your entrance with a friendly doorman to greet you. Before the show, you are treated to champagne and delicious and delightful hors d’oevres served by roving wait staff as you enjoy the lobby or the library lounge. For example, we were offered mini-hamburgers with brie, prosciutto wraps, and spinach croquettes, all of which were outstanding. And after the show, the entire cast will come out to the lobby for you to meet and greet.