OBSP’s LEND ME A TENOR Hits a High Note at Levoy Theater

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The Off Broad Street Players takes on LEND ME A TENOR. Director Walter A. Webster appears to have a knack for bringing out the best in his actors in this never dull presentation. Originally titled Opera Buffa, it takes place in 1934, in a hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio. World famous Italian tenor Tito Merelli overdoses on phenobarbitol after his wife Maria leaves him, and just before a performance of Verdi’s “Otello”. Impressario Saunders (played by Webster) must find a fast replacement and his assistant Max who also happens to be dating Saunders’ daughter is the unlikely person to masquerade as the murderous Moor. The eight member cast takes us on a non-stop chaotic journey involving mistaken identity and slammed doors.

The two-room set (designed nicely by Jason D. Smith) has a sitting room with a sofa at left and a bedroom at right. A center “stage wall” divides the two rooms, with a door leading from one room to the other. Throughout the play, the audience can see what’s happening in both rooms at the same time. This is a classic farce replete with sight gags, one liners and overall madcap comedic fun.

MaryBeth Thierolf as Julia, the Chairwoman of the Opera Guild, gives a “grande dame” performance (a la Margaret Dumont of Marx brothers fame). She struts her stuff with clever verbal exchanges and a riotiously funny demeanor.

Virginia Miles (Maggie), Maura Jarve (Diana), Shannon Sheridan (Maria), Jason D. Smith (Bellhop) and Dale Santangelo (Tito) are all on point, carrying out the absurdity with perfect slapstick timing and frenzied hilarity.

Derek Davis and Dale Santangelo in OBSP’s LEND ME A TENOR.

At the heart of this show is Max, the nervous assistant played brilliantly by Derek Davis. He is totally convincing as the would-be tenor who tries to keep everyone happy as the world around him collapses in chaos. Demonstrating a depth of character, he is in complete command of the give-and-take dialogue and the physical demands of the role. Davis is far and away the best reason to see this production.

This is my second time at the Levoy and I still marvel at the beautiful restoration, friendly staff and overall theatrical experience. It hasn’t taken too long for me to discover that this is the PREMIER theatre company of South Jersey.

Catch this brief production by the OBSP, it will leave you smiling all the way home.

LEND ME A TENOR runs through October 19th.

Written by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Walter A. Webster
October 17-19, 2014
The Off Broad Street Players
Levoy Theatre
130 N. High Street
Millville, NJ 08332


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J. Gary Hellwig
J. Gary Hellwig's performances have been described by New York critics as "Fantastic" and "Captivating" and with the release of his CD, “Stage Door”, he continues to delight fans with his brilliant vocal ability, dramatic flair and unique presence that has allowed him to perform in musical theatre, opera, jazz, as a model, and radio personality. Performing professionally since childhood, Hellwig's forte is ballads and broadway melodies and romances his audiences with artistic renditions of classic songs including "Granada", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Music of the Night", "Impossible Dream" and "If Ever I Would Leave You”. His performance arsenal from over 150 shows spans the 1920's to the contemporary and includes great compositions by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Berlin, Bernstein, Wildhorn, and Webber. A classically trained singer with a degree in music/theatre, Jgar has been a featured soloist with prominent organizations including Philadelphia's Singing City, Riverdale (NY) Chorus, Two Rivers Opera, Garden State Singers , Up With People and several Jazz and Pop oriented ensembles. His classical performances include inspiring solo and choral works of Bach, Mozart, Bizet, Schubert, Strauss, and Menotti. Dramatic roles include MAN OF LA MANCHA (Quixote) , THE FANTASTICKS (El Gallo), ANNIE (Warbucks) , FORUM (Miles Gloriosus). THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (Antrobus), 1776 (Jefferson, Dickinson), as well as many presentations and productions encompassing a wide musical spectrum from SHOW BOAT and OKLAHOMA to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He has been heard as an announcer and on-air radio personality and has headlined at casinos in Atlantic City where his one man show of Broadway and romantic songs was held over for 24 weeks. He has performed throughout the country and his solo performances have been heard on recordings, radio and television.

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