This spring’s Beck Center production of Lend Me a Tenor, Ken Ludwig’s now classic farce, comes close to perfection (maybe even achieves it).
Director Scott Spence, the bouncy, talented cast, and a stunningly beautiful and functional six-door-slamming set all make the ridiculous storyline jell into a joyous theatrical concoction. Set in 1934 Cleveland it both celebrates and satirizes opera, star-crazed fans, high society, the artsy set, and–of course–performers.
The light storyline concerns difficulties putting on an opera benefit featuring a famous Italian tenor. Things get complicated thanks to his late arrival, his wife, plus a wanna-be performer (make that two, no three hopeful performers), an opera company manager, and star-struck women. As they say, “hilarity ensues.”
Both Matthew Wright as Italian tenor Tito Merelli and Scott Esposito as assistant to the General Manager of the Cleveland Opera Company (played with appropriate bluster by John J. Polk) provide a nice surprise: both sing snippets from opera with verve and conviction. Both are also delightfully clownish clothed as the lead in Verdi’s Otello. That no one in the play can tell them apart speaks to the magic of theatre since Wright is quite a bit taller than Esposito.
Emily Pucell Czarnota as Maggie, Max’s star-struck girlfriend, and Carla Petroski, as wife to the great Tito, don’t miss a beat as they manage “their” men and race about the stage. Lissy Gulick, as Julia, the saucy, silver-clad grande dame of Cleveland society and Leslie Andrews as Diana, the flirty starlet who will do anything to get ahead also tickle funny bones. Zac Hudak plays the obnoxious bellhop that only exists in comedy (he’d be fired in real life).
Scenic designer Don McBride’s striking period set featuring a view of Terminal Tower almost becomes another character. Aimee Kluiber’s costumes completed the illusion of time far away and yet not really so distant.
And look out for the wonderfully funny all-action recap choreographed and executed with genius by all concerned.
Bottom Line: This light-hearted bubbly froth of a play satisfied my hunger for something bright and fun. Seeing it is a great way to celebrate spring.
The Beck Center for the Arts production runs through April 26 on the Mackey Main Stage. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays with an added 8 p.m. show on Thursday, April 23. For tickets go to beckcenter.org or call Customer Service at 216.521.2540 x10. Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood.
Listening to and learning more about music has been a life-long passion. She knows there’s no better place to do that than the Cleveland area.