“Lend Me A Tenor” hits all the right notes

Anna Holloway Published: April 10, 2014

Poteet Theatre ‘s production of Ken Ludwig’s 1986 farce provides a light and amusing evening of entertainment.  Deftly directed by Chuck Tweed, the ensemble cast of “Lend Me A Tenor” glides effortlessly through the French-style farce and delivers all the laughs.

Set in 1934 Cleveland, the show explores what happens when a famous tenor, brought in by the local opera company to sing Verdi’s “Otello,” is suddenly and apparently unavailable at the last minute.  Tweed has quite correctly resisted the temptation to update or modernize the setting by very much; the Poteet version looks more like the 1950s, and either period works for the story.  In the time before cell phones and instant messaging, mistaken identity, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and people coming and going through many coincidental doors is believable comedy.

Tweed and his cast have gotten all the references and jokes without slamming any of them.  Mark Gold gives us a charming and much distressed Max, the hapless assistant who is pressed into service as a stand-in for a famous tenor Tito Merelli.  He plays perfectly opposite Barrett Davidson as Saunders, the loud and bombastic opera producer.  Davidson and Gold play off each other with tight comedic balance; Saunders is pushy, and Max is much too easily swayed, but we don’t feel that Saunders is a bully or that Max is a worthless wimp.  By the end of the play, both have changed a little, and the actors make that transition very naturally and believably.

Morgen Moseley as Maggie Saunders is charming and balances the relationships of all the men.  She is almost engaged to Max, has a crush on the famous tenor, and runs her father’s personal life—and insists on being her own woman as she does it.

Kingsley Adams brings us a Tito with just the right mix of bombast and naïveté—he is a man who lives life large, but who is at heart a simple man with simple tastes—he wants booze and women.

Christine Jolly as Maria, Tito’s much beleaguered wife, is properly volatile and passionate; Alex Prather as the intrusive bellhop is appropriately brash; and Chris Harris as Julia, the president of the opera guild with her own crush on Tito, is a delightful parody of Margaret Dumont.  Caroline Miller as the seductive, predatory, and (in the end) realistic and supportive opera soprano is the icing on the cake.

This show depends on the chemistry of the cast and the timing of the doors.  Director Tweed’s unit set places all the doors perfectly for ideal movement and comic timing.  He has also played on the text; Ludwig chose “Otello” as for more than the opportunity to use a form of blackface as a disguise. Members of the audience familiar with either Shakespeare or Verdi will find another layer of fun in the references. There is even a handkerchief on prominent display for part of the show.

“Lend Me A Tenor” is playing at Poteet through April 19 on Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., with an added 2:00 Saturday matinee performance April 19. Purchase tickets at poteettheatre.com or at (405) 609-1023.