Lend Me a Tenor
Runs until March 31
Mayfield Dinner Theatre
16615 – 109 Ave.
Tickets: $75 to $105. Call 780-483-4051 or online at www.mayfieldtheatre.ca
When Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor premiered on Broadway in 1989, the screwball comedy received nine Tony nominations.
It was Ludwig’s attempt to write a style of farce popular decades earlier and he succeeded beyond his dreams.
But 30 years later, the Mayfield Dinner Theatre production running until March 31 has a dated feel. At a time when people worldwide are rethinking social conventions, the scripted jokes about stereotypes tend to fall flat.
Having said that, director Dave Horak still stages the hell out of it. The script may have a mechanical feel, but this production starring Vance Avery, Steven Greenfield and Jeff Haslam is at times really funny.
Set roughly in the 1930s, the action takes place in a plush Cleveland Hotel suite divided into two rooms – a retro-styled living room and a bedroom.
Megan Koshka’s set design includes six doors that indulge a laundry list of classic madcap setups such as mistaken identities, room swaps and personal misunderstandings.
Throw in a blend of quirky, over-the-top characters, a mix-up of elixirs and a catalogue of bawdy jokes to complete the two-act winter production.
The dictatorial opera impresario Saunders (Haslam) has invited Italian opera star Tito Morelli (Avery), also dubbed Il Stupendo, to perform the lead role of Otello at the Cleveland Opera House.
To say everyone is in a dither describes it mildly. Saunders’ daughter, Maggie (Madelaine Knight), a romantic, wide-eyed opera groupie, and Julia (Maralyn Ryan), the opera society president, both swoon over Il Stupendo.
The nebbish Max (Greenfield), Saunders’ right-hand and an aspiring tenor, goes into conniptions when ordered to babysit the overweight Il Stupendo and Maria (Stephanie Wolfe), Tito’s jealous and hot-blooded spouse.
When Max gives Tito a tranquillizer-laced drink, the opera singer falls into a deep state of unconsciousness and everyone thinks he’s dead.
Saunders has no intention of returning the proceeds of a sold-out show and rants, roars, raves and finally begs Max to dress up and perform the role of Otello.
The plan works smoothly until Tito awakens and dresses in costume, resulting in a whirlwind of mistaken identities and romantic complications.
The first act slowly sets up the situations, gradually layering one misunderstanding upon another. The second act picks up the pace, as actors ricochet across the stage in Keystone Cops fashion.
Despite some of the stilted lines, this ensemble cast works hard. It’s a joy to watch Avery’s interpretation of an Italian and listen him sing. Haslam is perfection as a dyspeptic impresario and Greenfield completely charms as the timid assistant who discovers his confidence.
Knight, as the not-so-innocent daughter, generates a few good laughs while Melissa MacPherson vamps it up as the lusty soprano willing to do anything for a career boost.
Nicholas Rose is a hoot as the star-struck bellhop and Ryan has a few well-placed moments as a clueless opera patron.
The night I attended, the loudest applause was reserved for the last curtain call during which the cast pantomimes the entire play in less than a minute.