A skillful cast extracts maximum fun from the Players’ Lend Me a Tenor.
By Kay Kipling
In case you’ve really been in need of a few laughs lately (and who hasn’t?), the Players’ current production of Lend Me a Tenor may be just the tonic for you.
Ken Ludwig’s dependable comedy, about an Italian tenor who’s meant to star in a performance of Otello for the Cleveland Grand Opera, has been something of a staple at local community theaters over the last two decades. But it hasn’t always had the luck this one does with its casting. Here everybody onstage, from the biggest role to the smallest, has a flair for playing the characters they’re assigned; and each gets some good bits from farceur Ludwig.
You don’t need too much of a plot synopsis: That tenor, Tito Merelli (Berry Ayers), has a jealous wife (Kaylene McCaw), a habit of overeating, and an irresistible fascination for his female fans, including the Cleveland company’s benefactress, grande dame Julia (Patti O’Berg, in a return to the Players stage after some absence), and the company manager’s daughter, Maggie (Andrea Kinal). Magge is sorta engaged to Max (portrayed by Players artistic director Jeffery Kin), but wants a fling first, and Tito would be her choice. So it’s farcical fate when Max has to step into Tito’s shoes onstage at the behest of her father (Bob Trisolini)…we won’t go any further because we don’t want to spoil whatever surprises await.
From the first moments, this Tenor has a good energy, and director Roberta MacDonald deftly keeps upping the ante for maximum comic effect. Everyone plays well together, but there are especially finely timed moments and adept physical stage business when Kin, as the timid Max, and Trisolini, as the harried manager, interact. McCaw spits funny fire as the possessive Maria Merelli, and Ayers scores as Tito whether he’s required to be blustering or befuddled. O’Berg has a chance to be both dithery and demanding as Julia; Kinal is properly spunky and troublesome as Maggie; and Lilian Moore, as a scheming soprano (is there any other kind?) and Toph McRae as a bellhop (who also wants to get close to the Morelli magic), play their parts with assurance as well.
It’s not that there is anything so remarkable about Lend Me a Tenor in general; it’s just that it’s a pleasure to watch these performers at work, and you sense they’re enjoying it, too. The show continues through Feb. 21; for tickets call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.