Lend Me a Tenor – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

It’s good for the heart to laugh and “Lend Me a Tenor,” a highly entertaining farce currently at Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) in Norwalk, CT, is a welcome relief from today’s troubling problems. Based on the ancient tradition of mistaken identities, and upgraded to modern times by American playwright, Ken Ludwig, this comedy contains the same pursuit of love, fame, and other forms of human gratification. The 1989 Broadway production won four Drama Desk and three Tony awards.

The action takes place in 1934. The two-room set, by Sean Sanford is a hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio. The bedroom area contains a line-up of doors leading to another stage entrance, closets, a dressing room and a bath. “Maggie” (Alexandra Fortin) and boyfriend, “Max” (Michael Fasano) are in the suite’s living room, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a world-famous Italian tenor, “Tito Mirelli” (Frank Mastrone). Max is the assistant to the General Manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, “Henry Saunders” (Jim Schilling). Saunders, also happens to also be Maggie’s strict father (who is not as strict with himself when it comes to social propriety). The problem at hand is that Tito is late for rehearsal and no one knows where he is or, whether he will even show up. When the tenor finally does show up another, unexpected problem arises. As a last resort, Saunders encourages Max, a shy, awkward, but equally talented singer, to impersonate the tenor and that’s an excuse for mix-ups and more mayhem.

Periodically entering the scene are several characters that have a personal interest in meeting tenor Tito: The impish “Bellhop” (Jeff Gurner) has ambitions of becoming a singer. Sexy soprano “Diana” (Emily Solo) wants to further her career. The Chairman of the Opera Guild, “Julia” (Jo Anne Parady)) wants to introduce him to her supporters. Fearing the discovery of Tito’s impersonator, Max, these fans are either kept away or shuttled to and from the bedroom’s slamming doors. When the Tenor finally does show up, his jealous wife “Maria” (Cynthia Hannah) makes things more complicated when she walks out on him.

The success of this farce lies in its direction by Pamela Hill, who has its slapstick silliness timed to the split second. Your eyes will relish the lovely ladies dressed in gorgeous gowns and sexy underwear designed by Diane Vanderkroef.

At MTC all the actors are seasoned professionals. Your ears will delight in Michael Fasano and Frank Mastrone who have outstanding, tenor voices and acting abilities. Speaking Italian along with characteristic, facial expressions and body movements, Cynthia Hannah’s “Maria” matches perfectly as “Tito’s” wife . Jim Schilling’s shenanigans along with sexy Alexandra Fortin, Emily Soto, impish Jeff Gurner, and regal, Jo Anne Parady will keep you laughing. The musical coda that ends the play is a special treat.

In short, “Lend Me A Tenor” at MTC contains lots of fun and verbal fireworks.
Do not miss it!