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