As 2018 wrapped up, I was able to sneak in one final show. That show was my 55th show that I saw this year and it was at the lovely Old Log Theatre. This show is one that I’ve heard of many many times but had never gotten the chance to read or even see produced. I was beyond thrilled to finally see the farcical comedy Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig. The show has a rich history with being produced first in the West End in 1986 and reaching Broadway in 1989 which was nominated for numerous Tony Awards and starred Victor Garber. The show had a Broadway revival in 2010 which was nominated as well.
Lend Me a Tenor takes place in the 30’s in a gorgeous hotel in Cleveland. The world-renowned Italian tenor, Tito Merelli, has accepted the part of Otello at the Cleveland Opera company. After a long wait, he finally arrives with his wife Maria. As the day progresses, a series of misunderstandings, wild circumstances and mistaken identities, the singer knocks himself out cold with a mixture of alcohol and a huge dose of pills. The General manager of the opera company,
Henry, is furious and must rely on his assistant, Max, to help clean up the mess. Henry eventually comes up with the idea to have Max dress up as Merelli to perform as him. Meanwhile, as Henry and Max revel in glory, the real star’s female co-star Diana, Max’s slightly annoying girlfriend Maggie, and the Opera’s head Julia, all try to steal Mirelli’s attention. You can assume the rest as Merelli and Max, still dressed as Merelli, continuously find themselves in the wrong company, unaware of exactly what is going on.
There is something about this type of play that absolutely makes me howl with laughter. I love stylized comedy along with farcical comedies as well. The cast really gets it and plays farcical comedy very well. They all work so well together but also stand on their own as individuals. Each and every one of them were hilarious. David Beukema played Max and has impeccable comedic timing along with a true understanding of what a farce is. McKinnley Aitchison played Maggie and although she had some hilarious moments, I felt like her caricature portrayal of her character didn’t fit in the world that the other cast members had for their portrayals.
James Detmar plays Henry Saunders, and somehow manages to yell his lines for so long and so quick that I thought he was going to pass out from not being able to breath - which I still consider skill. Luke Davidson plays Tito Merelli and manages to wonderfully find so many different levels throughout both acts. Elena Glass plays Diana and perfectly captures the tone and theme of the show through her portrayal. Steven Frankenfield plays the Bellhop with a lovely and funny charm. Melanie Wehrmacher is fantastic as the over the top Julia. And last but certainly not lease is Jaclyn Juola, playing Maria, whose combination of loud Italian accent and smoldering looks captured the loudest of laughs from a majority of the audience -- and myself!
While the cast was divine, their performances were enhanced even more by the beautiful set design of Erik Paulson. The hotel walls in combination with the furniture and overall decorations were all so stunning that you immediately know where you are and what the time period is. The only thing about the overall set that was a misfire for me was when you entered the theatre, they were playing old Hollywood movies. As the lights dimmed for the beginning of the show, a pre-taped video played depicting the name of the show, an advertisement for the Old Log’s restaurant, and credits of the cast.
As the actors entered stage behind the screen, the screen stayed put as the first minute or two of the play were played out in the previously taped video. Then the screen rolled up and the rest of the play started. I understand the meaning behind this and in theory I think it’s a fun idea however for me it just took me out of the play.
Getting to see Noises Off a few months prior and now seeing this was the perfect way to end 2018. The great news is that Lend Me a Tenor plays for many more performances and doesn’t close until Feb. 16. This hilarious production really is a great way to get out and enjoy a wonderful evening of laughs because the Old Log has created an amusing, entertaining and side splitting farcical comedy.
Lend Me a Tenor plays at the Old Log Theatre now through Feb. 16.