It’s 1934, Cleveland, Ohio, the Grand Opera House.
Tenor Tito Morelli’s appearance, for one performance only, will be the greatest coup for the management, for the Opera Guild, and for opera fans since the Cleveland Opera first opened its doors. Everyone, from the hotel bellhop to the socially prominent president of the Opera Guild, is keyed up with excitement and desperate to make a good impression on the great man. This is Cleveland’s cultural chance!
And of course, it is all going to go spectacularly and hilariously wrong!
Upper Canada Playhouse’s new show, Lend Me A Tenor, opens July 31 and runs to August 24.
“This is a farce in the truest sense of the word,” said director Donnie Bowes. “Something goes wrong very early, and people make fateful decisions that also go wrong. In just a few moments, everything changes dramatically.”
The play, by Ken Ludwig, was revived on Broadway in 1989, and received nine Tony Award nominations. It has remained enormously popular with audiences world wide, and also with actors who perform in it.
“This is truly the best written farce I’ve ever been in,” said cast member Liz Gilroy, who will be playing Maggie, a star struck young woman quite “crazy about Tito.”
Patti Kazmer, who takes on the role of Julia, the elegant if “rather pushy” president of the Opera Guild, agrees. “This really is a classic comedy.”
Bowes has brought together a multi-talented cast of eight for this third production of the Playhouse summer season.
In the lead, as ‘Il Stupendo’ himself, is Sheldon Davis, who has acted the role in other productions, and once, some years ago, at the Playhouse. He was asked how he keeps a familiar character like Tito fresh and alive.
“Actually we find ourselves mining what was there before,” Davis said. “It is such a funny, funny play. The qualities and thoughts of the characters are all in a shoebox in our minds, and we bring them out and blow the dust off. And new people always create new energy and a new dynamic for the play.”
The actors are having fun with their roles.
Susan Greenfield is Maria, Tito’s volatile wife, who is very jealous of his attraction to women. “I also need to be constantly aware of my Italian accent,” she laughed.
Parris Greaves is Max, the harried assistant to the opera’s manager, desperate to ensure that all goes well, and doomed to see that all goes wrong.
Playhouse newcomer Ed Sahely is the slightly overbearing opera house manager, Henry Saunders. He wants a theatrical hit, no matter what he has to do to get it.
AnnaMarie Lea is Diana, a soprano scheduled to play Desdemona to Tito’s Othello. But what she wants is to get out of Cleveland and on to the grand stage of the Metropolitan Opera: she is prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve that ambition.
Rounding out the cast, as an idol worshipping Bellhop, is Doug Tangney. Like just about everyone else in the play, the Bellhop is determined to get close to his ‘hero’, the great Tito, no matter the circumstances.
John Thompson has designed a colourful period set for this production. “He’s had a lot of experience designing period shows,” said Donnie Bowes, “and has incorporated the trims and architecture of the 30s in the set pieces. It’s striking.”
To a person, the actors rave about the costumes created by Alex Amini for the Playhouse’s Lend Me A Tenor.
“Alex just has a wonderful sense of us and our characters. She creates beautiful costumes,” said Patti Kazmer.
“Alex has ‘dressed’ 70 shows this season alone,” Bowes said. “She works closely with the director and later with each actor, offering various costumes and various qualities to enhance that character. Every costume is completely unique.”
With a beautiful set, striking costumes and a cast of lovable, rather mad and certainly hilarious characters, Lend Me A Tenor will definitely be a Playhouse hit.
For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 613-543-3713.