Sierra Stages satisfies with ‘Lend me a Tenor’
By Hindi Greenberg
If you like comedy, slapstick, farce and wild antics, then Sierra Stages’ first nonmusical production, “Lend Me a Tenor,” is for you. This play has it all – plot twists, mistaken identities, raucous behavior, double entendres and innuendoes. And obviously many people love such productions, because the audience when I attended laughed throughout the show.
Ken Ludwig’s play was first produced on the West End in 1986 and then on Broadway in 1989, earning seven Tony nominations. It takes place in a hotel suite, during one day in 1934, where a famous Italian tenor arrives before his scheduled performance at a fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera. The ensuing complications surrounding his health, womanizing, relationships and singing, and how they affect everyone around him, keeps the pace moving frantically to the satisfying finale. In between, the audience is treated to a taste of operatic singing, flashes of female lingerie, an excess of histrionics, much physical comedy and lots of slamming doors.
This is a challenging play – because it moves so fast and often requires split-second timing of vocal and physical movement – and it is expertly directed by Diane Fetterly, the Grande Dame of Nevada County theater (she was founding artistic director of Foothill Theatre Company). Fetterly knows how to perfectly guide her actors to achieve the humor of the moment.
Because of the often intense physical exertion and interaction, credit must be given to the entire company for their fine sense of timing, ability to keep the pace moving and ensemble acting, especially in the frantic second act. Robert Rossman is hilarious as the impresario Saunders, whose reputation and livelihood depend upon getting the famous tenor Tito (humorously played by Robert Meyer) to perform at the Opera. Dylan Hoy-Bianchi is appropriately nerdy/suave as Max, Saunders’ lovelorn, but aspiring opera singer assistant. The entire cast adroitly contributes to the circus, but Marion Jeffery’s turn as Tito’s bellicose and jealous wife Maria is particularly funny. And Merilee Thompson as Julia, the Opera patroness, couldn’t be more entertaining, with affected accent, excellent comic timing and superb body language.
Ardith Ann Gray’s costumes are wonderful and spot-on for the 1930s, and the set design by Pamela Mengers Hodges and lighting by Chris Goetzke greatly contribute to the overall ambiance.
For a fun and funny theater experience, see “Lend Me a Tenor,” continuing at the Off Center Stage, behind The Center for the Arts, through Oct. 2.
Hindi Greenberg congratulates Sierra Stages, which has previously produced six musicals, on its first nonmusical feature (although there is a bit of music in this play). But she’s especially looking forward to their next production – Rogers & Hammerstein’s music – and wishing she could sing.
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