“Lend Me a Tenor” Hits the High Notes

Téalin Robinson, Activites Editor

     One, two, three, four, five, six. Six doors on the stage of BC’s Black Box, where the revival of Ken Ludwig’s 1989 farce, “Lend Me a Tenor,” directed by Mrs. Schiro, opened Wednesday, April 30. Six doors, primed for slamming by both magnificent casts, in the two-room hotel suite where this year’s hilarious spring play, kept the audience laughing all night.

     And slam these doors do, as the characters are churned through a dizzying plot, that leaves them ferociously leaping across the furniture in sexual arousal or rage. No matter the situation, this suite held up in desperate concealment of oh so many secrets.

     This rollicking production set in 1934, opens with the anxiously awaited arrival of Tito Merelli, played by Emo Dobrev (‘14)/Tom Lazar (‘16), as a world-renowned tenor, who is making his American debut at during a gala production of Verdi’s “Otello” in Cleveland. The ailing Italian tenor, accompanied by his loving but temperamental wife Maria (Sarah Nies (‘15)/Megan Cunningham (‘15), who both energetically punctuated their lines as “a crazy”), enters to the easily agitated opera company’s manager, Saunders, played by the one and only Jason Hubler (‘15) (who was brilliant at spitting out grapes). However, Tito comes indisposed and the downtrodden assistant to Saunders, Max, played by the ever cheery Eddie Pronley (‘14) and the sprightly Landon Quinney (‘15) in which both sing a beautiful Italian tune, is left to chaperone Tito. Just before the evenings performance, Tito is thought to be dead after an exuberant consumption of too many sedatives. This brings on a slight trick for the audience, since Tito is clearly breathing atop the bed and neith Saunders nor Max, had checked the pulse.

     The scheming impreserio persuades Max, who is terrified despite his dreams of opera-stardom, to masquerade as the Italian star, since he just so happens to know the daunting role of Otello by heart. Naturally Tito awakens from his deep slumber and suits up. Despite the two characters complete dissimilarities, the heavy costume, blackening makeup and wig disguises Max. Nevertheless, their characters are mistaken for each other throughout most of Act II, which takes place after the opera performance with both men still in costume but never in the same room at the same time.

     The comical impersonation does not stop here though; with a nod to the Marx Brothers’ classic 1935 “A Night at the Opera,” the play is filled with manic disagreements, elaborate deceptions and broadly telegraphed attempts at seduction. Grace McDonell (‘14)/Holly Hoeppner (‘15), as Julia, the chairwoman of the opera guild, sweeps into the hotel room imperiously wittingly gains the audience’s attention with her “haute couture from Paris.” Diana, played by Emily Hartwig (‘14)/Emily Lambert (‘16), the Cleveland soprano with New York ambitions, slithers comically through her luring moves and affair with the real Tito, who in truth believes she is a prostitute. Playing the daughter of the sputtering Saunders and almost fiancee of Max, Maggie, played by Emily Blackburn (‘16)/Rae Davel (‘17) who both prove to be smitten with Tito. While Maggie soon believes she is gaining “wider experience” from Tito, she is truthfully with Max, whereas the real Tito is in the next room with Diana. This conveys the two as a cute couple meant to be as they share a kiss at the end of the play. And of course, the adorably obnoxious bellhop, played by John McCloskey (‘15)/Brett Fong (‘17), brings amusement to the audience through Saunders’s conflict with his desire for a photo with Tito.

     This unabashedly silly farce, “Lend Me a Tenor,” was overall a huge success as the play ending with a rousing recap of the scenes, performed at warp speed, creating an agreeable arrivederci to the lightweight humorous play. Abby Olson (‘15) said, “As production manager, I saw firsthand the cast develop into the vibrant characters they portrayed on stage…the cast and crew from this great production have not only made a significant impact on my life, but have also brought out the greatness in each of us, not just as actors or stage help, but as people, in general.” Congratulations to both casts and crew!