Reviewed by Tony Annicone
RISE’s current show is “Lend Me a Tenor”, a Tony Award winning farce by Ken Ludwig. The show is set in 1934 and revolves around renowned tenor, Tito Merelli, who is scheduled to sing the lead in “Otello”, produced as a fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. Unfortunately, even before the star leaves the hotel room, things begin to unravel. Chaos ensues when Merelli’s hot tempered Italian wife, Maria has mistaken Maggie, an autograph-seeker hidden in his closet for his secret lover. Maria leaves her husband, a Dear John letter. The distraught Tito is given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him down and passes out. Saunders, the hard-ass general manager and Maggie’s father, is determined that the show must go on for his own financial sake, so he asks his assistant, Max, who is infatuated with Maggie, to impersonate the opera star. Max puts on the black face makeup required for the role of Otello, and his disguise succeeds admirably until something shocking happens. What follows is a chain reaction of mistaken identity, plot twists, double entendres, innuendoes and constant slamming doors on the unit hotel set. Throw in Diana, the opera diva soprano and Julia, the chairwoman of the Board who both pursue Tito as well as an opera loving bellhop to complete this eight person cast. Director Elizabeth LaBrecque casts this show with a keen eye for farcical situations, which keeps the audience laughing merrily all night long.
Elizabeth keeps the show in constant motion and infuses her cast with the high energy to pull off this madcap roles. Michael Ferron leads the troupe in merriment, doing a wonderful job as Max. He has a multitude of funny and clever dialogue, going from meek and mild assistant to forceful opera singer when he imitates Tito finally winning the girl of his dreams. ‘s tenor voice soars in the operatic scenes especially in the aria with Tito in Act 1. He has many comic bits including the comic exercise scene with Tito, funny double takes and plays the suave lover when he seduces Maggie. One of his best moments comes when he stands up to the overbearing Saunders, becoming the mouse who roared at the lion. Robert Grady who also has a strong tenor voice is terrific as Tito. He uses an Italian accent in this role and commands the stage in his scenes, displaying a strong stage presence. Robert has many funny moments especially his argument scenes with his hot tempered Italian wife, Maria. Other funny moments include the double entendre, the mixed up happenings and when he and Max woo different girls at the same time. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Camille Terilli as the hot tempered Italian wife with the perfect Italian accent. This talented red haired actress is terrific as she runs roughshod over Tito threatening that she will make him a soprano if he doesn’t stop fooling around with other women. Camille commands the stage with the other characters making them quake in their boots while chasing them around the sofa into the bedroom. Her gestures and actions are priceless as she snarls at Maggie and Diana after they ask who she is. She receives many laughs with her hilarious antics. Camille and Roberto play off each other like a real life married couple with their spats.
The mean general manager is played by Steve Small. He plays the role in an over the top manner and is full of high energy every time he enters the stage. One of Steve’s funniest moments occurs when he chokes Tito in the bedroom scene and another when he yells at Max. His facial expressions and line delivery is excellent. I last reviewed Steve as Gary in “I Hate Hamlet” at Walpole Footlighters. Justine Durvin, a pretty brunette plays Maggie, who has a crush on Tito and fainted when he kissed her hand in Italy. She is wonderful as the infatuated ingenue. Maggie wants to have a fling before she settles down and her kissing scene with Max in blackface is hilarious. Also funny is when she asks for Tito’s autograph and mistakenly thinks he wants to make love with her. Maggie takes off her dress and throws herself at him. Dark haired Kathleen Seagriff plays the sex crazed opera diva, Diana who slept with every man in the opera company. One of the funniest scenes is when she throws Tito on the bed while Maggie throws Max on the sofa to have her way with him. Another funny scene is when Tito thinks her whole family are prostitutes. The wealthy dowager, Julia is wonderfully played by Mary Case. She wears a silver lame gown with a tiara which makes her look like the Chrysler Building. Mary has many funny lines as this Grand Dame and makes them all hit pay dirt. Tim Ferron is a hoot as the opera loving Bellhop. He steals many a scene while insulting Saunders and continually asking for Tito’s autograph. I last reviewed him two years ago as Arty in “Lost in Yonkers” at RISE and I didn’t recognize him because he grow so tall. The recap scene at the end of the show is hysterical, too. So for a fun filled farce, be sure to catch “Lend Me a Tenor” at RISE Playhouse in Woonsocket before time runs out.
LEND ME A TENOR (30 March to 9 April)
RISE Playhouse, 142 Clinton St., Woonsocket, RI
1(401)441-5011 or www.ristage.org