by J.S. Alleva
For a night of laugh-out-loud comedy, and a tasty dinner to boot, waste no time in getting yourselves to SALT Performing Arts for a rollicking rendition of Lend Me A Tenor (the play). Written by Ken Ludwig, this comedy has won a vast array of Tony and Drama Desk Awards and has been performed in over 30 countries and 20 languages–clearly a story that crosses boundaries with its outrageous humor. But time is of the essence. There are only four (4) performances left and this is one delicious evening you won’t want to miss. Running through June 25, this show’s $40 ticket price includes a fabulous catered buffet from Limoncello Restaurant.
The story of Lend Me A Tenor takes place in a hotel suite in 1934, on a history-making night at the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. The world-famous and beloved tenor, Tito Morelli, “Il Stupendo,’ is scheduled to perform “Otello,” his greatest role, and the show’s presenter gets apoplectic when the tenor’s arrival is delayed. When the star finally arrives, he’s in less-than-stellar condition, and after some ‘help’ from Tito’s wife and new friend Max, things go terribly wrong. In a raucous case of mistaken identity involving a trio of enamored ladies, this show slams through doorways to a hilarious and surprising end.
Directed by Cathy Alaimo and produced by Lauren McComas, SALT’s Lend Me A Tenor takes a talented cast on a wild ride through Ken Ludwig’s brilliantly-funny script. Though some repetitive blocking and pillow-fluffing are slightly distracting at the start of the play, once the action gets going, it is laugh a minute. The ensemble cast has a delightfully-steamy energy, making Ludwig’s masterful lines hit their mark in all the right places.
Tito Morelli, the star tenor, is played brilliantly by Dave Cura whose bigger-than-life, and fully-believable, Italian hero produces some of the funniest moments in the entire play. He is passionately stubborn and endearing, and his facial finesse and flawless line delivery bring the house down.
The feisty and fearless Andrea Kalan portrays Tito’s wife Maria with explosive passion and expert comedic timing. She and Cura together are a force to be reckoned with.
Joe Wadlinger brings just the right bluster and pomposity to the character of Saunders, and his sardonic speeches contain some seriously-clever writing. Saunders is the father of Maggie, played with an eager spunkiness by Dana Fogg. She’s a girl desperate for a bit of passion in her life, and her blatant attraction to Tito causes many unexpected mishaps and involves many doors.
Mild-mannered Max is played with a jaunty, nerdy confidence by Troy Cooper whose resonant singing voice comes as an impressive surprise. While Cooper tends to pace a bit on stage, his ‘Clark Kentish’ awkwardness sets things up well for later developments.
Diana, played by Elizabeth Hennessey, is a drop-dead gorgeous operatic starlet, whose shameless and self-serving seductions are scattered deliciously throughout the show. Her earnest pleas for a ‘leg-up’ from Tito lead to a madcap, mixed-up, mistaken identity-highlight of the play.
Bellhop Salvatore Mirando is a true standout (and frequent scene stealer) with his hilarious drop-jaw expressions, devilish determination, and spontaneous bursts of operatic abandon which leave the audience in stitches.
Fran Kane, as Julia, is utterly reminiscent of Meryl Streep’s Florence Foster Jenkins. Kane’s throaty lilt, womanly wiles, and mischievous manner bring dramatic flair and eyebrow-raising humor to every scene.
At the theatre entrance, a warm and welcoming host greets guests and invites them into the surprisingly-spacious black box theatre. A well-lit stage and café-style layout create an appealing ambiance. House management is provided by Alison Worrall and Hospitality by Diane Scott. Set & Lighting Design by Troy Cooper (who also plays Max) brings the audience right into a lushly decorated hotel suite, with its rich burgundy and gold accents and sumptuous upholstery. The suite is split between living room and bedroom with a partial separating wall. A series of exterior and interior doors play a crucial role in the play, and hold up well to the frequent slamming done by a passionate cast of characters. The lighting is warm and inviting throughout, though one particularly-compromising scene lasted a bit longer than was comfortable before the blackout arrived.
Some of the most appealing aspects of the play are the costumes and props by Elizabeth Tozer. The women’s dresses are lush, opera-appropriate and downright glamorous. Some of the men’s pieces are a bit lightweight in fabric, though most are well-tailored and bring the variety of characters to life. The Otello costumes are spot-on, Julia’s silver gown is…well, perfect, and Diana’s green dress virtually stops the clock. The women’s hair and makeup is absolutely gorgeous in elegant 1930’s style.
And let’s not forget dinner! The delicious buffet style meal is catered by Limoncello Restaurant, and guests have ample time to enjoy the meal (and the cash bar) before the show begins. Diners are invited to refill their plates and cups anytime during the production, though most attendees remain riveted on the show. The dinner menu changes slightly from day to day. The Friday menu includes a ‘to-die-for’ Rigatoni alla vodka and Eggplant parmigiana (click here for all menus.)
For those who visit the SALT website before the show, there may be some confusion as to whether this production is the musical version of Lend Me A Tenor, made popular in 2011, as the website does show information for the musical adaptation on its show listing. But for the record, this production is the PLAY version, and includes only occasional operatic singing to support the storyline. There is nothing lost in the lack of song and dance, however. Ken Ludwig’s masterfully-written script and zany cast of characters incite the audience into fits of laughter throughout, especially as the show accelerates through the second act.
For a great evening of clever farce and belly laughter, SALT’s Lend Me A Tenor is a romp and a half. There is, however, a LOT of sexual innuendo throughout the show, so please use your best judgement for younger audience members.
Worth mentioning: Signage to SALT Performing Arts is well-marked along the streets approaching the West Pikeland Township Bldg (where the theatre is housed), but is non-existent from parking lot to theatre door (due to township ordnances). Please follow the cement path straight down the slope into the courtyard area, and enter the first of two doors on the right. This will bring you into a lobby where a flight of stairs will take you to the theatre itself. For those with stair/mobility challenges, there is an entrance (and bathroom) on the theatre level. It’s accessible through the rear of the building (where the Township offices are located.) Please contact SALT ahead of time for directions to the best entrance for your needs.
Lend Me A Tenor (the play) is performed in two Acts, with a 15-minute intermission.
Remaining show times include: June 18 @ 2pm, June 23 @ 7pm, June 24 @ 7pm, and June 25 @ 2pm.
SALT is a non-profit venue providing excellence in community theatre, summer/year-long camps for kids, talent competitions and more.
For info on Lend Me A Tenor and upcoming shows, contact: SALT Performing Arts The Theatre at Yellow Springs 1645 Art School Road Chester Springs, PA 19425 www.saltpa.com