Ken Ludwig"s backstage farce "Lend Me a Tenor" is at the Brown County Playhouse in a tidily staged, door slamming production directed by Dale McFadden.
The story is set in the Cleveland of 1934 as the Cleveland Grand Opera’s nervous General Manager, Brad Bellamy, his much put-upon assistant Max, Mathew Buffalo, and the assistant’s girlfriend and manager’s daughter Melanie Derleth all await the arrival of world famous tenor Tito Merelli to play the part of Otello in Verdi’s opera.
Just to heighten the tension, there are also brief visits from the chair of the Opera Guild, Holly Holbrook, an autograph seeking bellhop, Nick Arapoglou, and the aspiring soprano Desdemona, Allison Moody.
Much to the relief of the manager, the assistant and the daughter, the gracious Merilli, Paul Jackel, and his fiery wife, Jessica Cuicci arrive, but the over eating Italian is in no shape to go to the rehearsal. His wife, the manager and the assistant all want him to get a rest and poor Merelli ends up soddenly overmedicated, too dead to the world to go on.
Thinking that he is not just dead to the world, but in fact dead, the manager persuades the assistant, an aspiring but inexperienced tenor, to don one of Merilli’s costumes and take the stage. The show is a success, but meanwhile Merelli has dazedly awakened and put on his spare costume Shortly we have not one, but two, identically costumed Otello’s. Comedy ensues.
The Brown County Playhouse production has assembled a nicely mixed cast of very accomplished students and professionals. Paul Jackel, a seasoned actor of TV and stage, had lovely bearing and a very persuasive voice as the tenor. Jessica Cuicci was energetically charming as Ttito’s wife, though I did wish that she’d slow down a little with her dialogue. Brad Bellamy, another professional with lots of theatre and TV experience, as the General Manager, began, persisted in, and even concluded in an only slightly banked apoplectic choler. Mathew Buffalo as the assistant, did a nice job of moving from hesitant to at least mock heroic, and Melanie Derleth was charming as his hesitant girl friend. Holly Holbrook was grand as the local opera’s grand dame and Nick Arapoglou was engaging as the eager bell hop.
Saturday night’s audience was treated to a very neatly done and funny night on the outskirts of the opera. They were warmly applauding the curtain call with even a few standing to applaud, when director Dale McFadden brought everyone to their feet as he had the cast do a rapid fire reprisal of key scenes for a second finale.
"Lend Me a Tenor" plays Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoons through the twenty-ninth.
You can find an interview with Artistic Director Jonathan Michaels about the whole Brown County Playhouse season on our Arts Interviews page .