Full-throttle fun in Citadel’s ‘Tenor’
Eric Zuber and Andrew J. Pond become acquainted in Citadel Theatre's "Lend Me a Tenor."
‘Lend Me a Tenor’
Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through June 3
Tickets: $35 for Thursday or Sunday; $37.50 for Friday or Saturday
(847) 735-8554 or www.citadeltheatre.org
Updated: May 8, 2012 6:02PM
As a textbook bedroom farce by Ken Ludwig, “Lend Me a Tenor” comes with all the key elements that define the genre: mistaken identities, slapstick humor, double entendres, exaggerated characters who often find themselves in improbable situations. And don’t forget confused encounters and inevitable door-slamming episodes.
All of these laugh inducers come together nicely in Citadel Theatre’s revival of the 1986 classic directed by Robert Estrin.
The play takes place during a single day in 1934 in a swanky suite of a Cleveland hotel.
Renowned Italian tenor Tito Morelli (played by Andrew J. Pond), known as “Il Stupendo” to his fans, has signed on to perform “Otello” at a fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. Saunders, (a convincingly harried Pat Murphy), general manager of the company, is aware of the singer’s reputation as a ladies’ man with a taste for drink, so he instructs Max (Eric Zuber), his young assistant, to keep him from harm’s way.
It doesn’t help matters when Tito’s jealous wife stomps off in a huff after discovering a woman autograph hunter hiding in the bedroom closet. Real trouble follows when the distraught opera star, who has taken a double dose of tranquilizers, is soon asleep like a dead man.
Hilarious sight gags ensue as Saunders and Max unsuccessfully try to revive the comatose Tito. Soon Saunders, apoplectic at the prospect of losing his high-stakes investment if the show is canceled, convinces a reluctant Max, an opera buff who just happens to have memorized the part, to take the stage as the star.
Performing in blackface for the role as the Moor of Venice, Max successfully passes himself off as Tito.
However, in Act II, Tito awakes from his deep sleep, puts on blackface, dons his backup costume and immediately finds himself confused as an imposter. The frenetic hilarity reaches a fever pitch.
Estrin’s sharp cast doesn’t pull punches. Zuber proves himself a commanding presence and quick wit as Max. On opening night, when he accidentally toppled a decorative baluster on Daniel Milsk’s fine set, he quickly quipped, “I’ll pay for that.”
Pond, as Tito, brought a full range of comedic talents to bear, including his unforgettable, startled doe-in-the-headlights look.
Others in the cast also shine brightly: Carey Lee Burton, as Max’s girlfriend, the celebrity-infatuated Maggie; Christine Cummings, the tenor’s hot-tempered spouse; Matt Andersen, the intrusive bellhop; Susan Steinmeyer, a singer in the company and a pragmatic groupie; and Jeffrey Geddes, in drag as the amorous opera guild head.
In the program notes, Estrin observes that Ludwig created characters an audience will care about and laugh with. “It’s a classic farce with a modern twist ... and has a warm heart beating underneath all the insanity onstage,” he wrote. His production proves that point.