Friday, September 19, 2014

theatre review LEND ME A TENOR, Desert Foothills Theatre, Sept. 14

To read my Talkin' Broadway review of Lend Me a Tenor at Desert Foothills Theatre just click on this link,

Janis Webb, Harold LeBoyer, Matt Newhard and Roy Hunt
Ken Ludwig's hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor took Broadway by storm in 1989, receiving nine Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play. The show was revived on Broadway in 2010, and received another three Tony noms, and is a favorite of regional theatres due to the tightly constructed plot, larger than life characters, and the belly laughs the door-slamming incidents deliver. Desert Foothills Theatre opened their 2014-2015 season with a rousing production of the play with a tightly directed ensemble of actors who were more than capable of delivering on the comic bits in Ludwig's comedy.

It's 1934 and Tito Morelli, the world famous tenor, has been booked to perform Otello at the Cleveland Opera Company. After accidentally receiving a double dose of tranquilizers and drinking too much wine, Tito passes out and is believed to be dead by Max, the nervous assistant to the opera's company manager Saunders. Fearing all is lost, and dreading having to return the ticket sales money if they are forced to cancel, Saunders comes up with a plan and enlists Max to help him out of his bind. A series of incidents involving mistaken identities, misunderstandings and multiple slamming doors sets a chain reaction in motion and hilarity ensues.

Exact precision and exaggerated characters are two of the most important elements of a successful farce and director Mark Clemente and his cast, led by Matt Newhard as Max, achieved both at the (final) performance I attended. With the combination of a squeaky voice and a continual nervousness manifested in his constantly pulling on his sweater vest as if it were a safety blanket, Newhard expertly portrayed the tense and meek Max. This is the fifth show I've seen Newhard in over the past year and he is a chameleon in his ability to look and sound different in every role he plays. As Tito, Roy Hunt managed to skillfully show the sweet natured man under the larger than life opera star, and when things start to get crazy and Tito is confused about the situations at hand, Hunt's comical facial expressions and body language were used to great success.

The rest of the cast were quite effective. As the high strung Saunders, Harold LeBoyer continually shouted orders at anyone who'd listen, and even those who wouldn't; Melissa Powers as Max's girlfriend/Saunders' daughter Maggie, was sweet, charming and downright giddy at the opportunity of meeting Tito; and as Tito's long suffering wife Maria, Janis Webb projected an appropriate feistiness underneath the fits of jealousy and rage that she was driven to by Tito's perceived philandering. Lindsay Newhard (Matt's wife) was fun and sexy as the voluptuous soprano Diana, and the duet she sang with her real-life husband was charming. Cynthia Elek projected a lovely air of elegance to Julia, the pushy chairman of the Opera Guild, and Jonathan Perry Brown had a couple of funny moments as the assertive Bellhop who would do just about anything to meet Tito.

Clemente's direction of his cast was excellent—not only keeping the action moving, at very quick speeds at some points, but allowing for the sweet emotions of the play to come through in spades. This was matched by the effective creative elements that included set designer Martin Treinen's sunny hotel suite in bright colors with period perfect furniture and that all-important row of doors for the characters to slam. From Max's patterned sweater vest and crisp tuxedo to the exquisitely lush dresses for the women, including a sparkling silver one for Julia as well as the hilarious Otello costumes, Aurelie Wisdom's designs were just as effective and amusing as the play. Daniel Kersh's lighting design gave a lovely sunny look and feel to the hotel suite. Vocal couch Daniel Kurek generated some confident operatic moments from both of the Newhards and Hunt.

With a great plot, fun characters, and zany situations it is easy to see why Lend Me a Tenor is a popular show, so popular that another theatre company in town is presenting the show in December. 
With superb direction and a comically gifted cast, this production of the comedy gem provided plenty of joy and amusement. When Lend Me a Tenor is done right, it creates waves of giddy laughter from the audience, and Desert Foothills Theatre definitely achieved that.

Lend Me a Tenor at Desert Foothills Theater ran September 5th through the 14th at the Cactus Shadows Fine Art Center, 33606 N. 60th Street in Scottsdale. Information on upcoming shows and tickets can be purchased at or by calling 480 488-1981

Photo: Tiffany Marie Bolock / Desert Foothills Theater

No comments:

Post a Comment