Lend Me a Tenor – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If you’re a fan of farce, slamming doors, mistaken identities and comic confusion, then Norwalk’s Music Theatre of Connecticut has a wonderfully entertaining show for you until Sunday November 20.

It’s always convenient to have a friendly neighbor close by when you need an unexpected ingredient for a baking project. Having good neighbors available to borrow a few eggs or a cup of sugar for a cake you are baking is one thing, but asking to borrow an operatic singer, a tenor, is quite another. You know the incredible number of details that go into making an event a success as well as the plethora of problems that can derail the big project, if you’ve ever staged a major fundraiser. For Henry Saunders, the manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, the bulk of the responsibilities are on his sturdy shoulders. He has invited the greatest Italian tenor of his day, Tito Mirelli, to perform his signature role of Otello. It’s is a grand coup…until Mirelli fails to show up on the big day.

Come help Saunders and his capable assistant Max cope with the multitude of mistakes that can cause mutiny in Ken Ludwig’s comic farce “Lend Me a Tenor” being humorously brought to life at MTC. Expect slamming doors every other minute and comic timing that is precise and hysterical.

Saunders, the bombastic boss Jim Schilling, doesn’t start to panic until his prize diva is two hours late. He has sent his capable aide Max, an industrious Michael Fasano, to the train station but he has come back to the hotel alone. Meanwhile the list of people anxious to meet Tito, for an autograph, an assignation, an audition or an acquaintance is getting longer by the moment, from Saunders’ impressionable daughter Maggie (Alexandra Fortin), the bellhop who wants to sing (Jeff Gurner), Julia, the chairman of the opera guild who wants bragging rights (Jo Anne Parady) to Tito’s leading lady Diana (Emily Solo) who wants her career to get a big boost. Everyone has an agenda of what they want Tito to deliver, not the least of which is his wife Maria, a fiery Cynthia Hannah, who is sick and tired of his excesses, in food, drink and women. Tito arrives and everyone pounces on him.

When an angry and unforgiving Maria storms out of their hotel suite, she is the catalyst for an avalanche of mishaps from an overdose of medication to a mistaken suicide note, from a supper of shrimp mayonnaise on the verge of botulism to not one but two Otellos anxious to perform on stage. The cast is uniformly great as they slam doors and wreck havoc, including the super star himself, Frank Mastrone as Mirelli, in all his flamboyant and excessive splendor. Director Pamela Hill balances the panic and the pleasure, the frantic and the funny, with outrageously over-the-top results. Add in Sean Sanford’s fun set and Diane Vanderkroef’s sophisticated costumes for more delights. Bravo!

For tickets ($40-65), call Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (route one) at 203-454-3883, or online at admin@musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Masks are highly recommended but not required.

Brush up on your opera and your Italian as the fun and fur fly when Tito Mirelli as Il Stupendo and his egotistical entourage come to town.