BWW Reviews: Vintage Theatre's LEND ME A TENOR Stumbles but Prevails in Comedy!
Vintage Theatre remounts their classic comedy, LEND ME A TENOR (by Kent Ludwig) playing now through March 23rd. The renowned "Il Stupendo" is scheduled to sing the lead in the opera, Othello. Chaos ensues when his wife mistakenly leaves him a "Dear John" letter and the distraught singer is accidentally given a double dose of tranquilizers. What follows is a laugh-out-loud chain reaction of mistaken identity, farcical plot twists, double entendres and musical mayhem!
I must admit I was rather excited to laugh and to reminisce about this show (having been a proud member of Vintage's cast ten years ago). Unfortunately, for me, this production left a little to be desired. While the physical staging and door play were spot on, it was the interpretation of the comedic dialogue that kept getting lost in the shuffle. With the exception of a couple actors, the most egregious error was the lack of inflection and intonation in the characters dialogue making for flat performances and lost comedic opportunities. They just didn't take the time to appreciate the genius of the words and rushed from reaction to reaction. Another cause and effect from this was awkward pauses that affected the energy and flow during the first half. But even for the issues in Act One, these small glitches were resolved in Act Two and the show came together quite nicely. My favorite scene was Diana seduction of Tito hilariously played up by real life couple, Andrew and Kelly Uhlenhopp. This scene was fall on the floor funny and their natural chemistry was apparent and delightful to watch. My only other wish was that there had been more audible effects from the actors in the two-minute recap play at the end to tickle the audience's funny bone one more time.
Jeff Jesmer was excellent in the lead role and brought a boyish, geeky charm to the role.While he had an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy Piven, but seemed to be channeling Rick Moranis in his portrayal of Max. Bethany Talley was simply adorable as Maggie and played her part with a twinkle in her eye. Unfortunately her role for me was a little one note and she never explored her fun balance of innocence and naughty curiosity that makes up her role. Andy Anderson was pretty good as her melodramatic father, Saunders, but I did not understand some of his character choices for this role. The most confusing character trait that he added was the repetitive temper tantrum, stamping of the feet that seemed very out of place and just odd. I would have added a funny vocal exclamation or hilarious calming technique that would have added so much more to the eternally nervous Saunders. Andrew Uhlenhopp was fantastic as the opera star, Tito Merelli. While I had to chuckle at times in the vacillation in his accent from Italian to occasional New York guido, I loved his Italian passion and all that he brought to his role. His wife, Maria (wonderfully played by Sarah MacMillan) also brought that fiery passion, and magnetic bickering to their relationship that brought nothing but laughs from the audience. Leroy Leonard and Kelly Uhlenhopp were not only the wickedly fabulous scene stealers, but also a breath of fresh air in this otherwise stagnant show. From the moment that Leroy come on the stage as the nosy and interfering bellhop, he had the audience doubled over in laughter. I also have to congratulate the genius idea of having so many of his lines operatically sung raising his role and the funny to a whole new level! Kelly Uhlenhopp once again shines bright in the role of the delicious seductress, Diana. From her thoughtful and sultry movements, to the wispy Marilyn Monroe voice, Kelly deserves a standing ovation for her fantastically memorable role and had the audience in stitches the entire time. Kerry Hauger Beebe was fun and dynamic as the socialite, Julia; but I just felt she could have done more to make her character over the top. She needed a niche, like a grand entrance and runway walk every time she entered the room or something.
I have to compliment Katie Mangett on her direction of this comedic juggernaut. While I had issue with lines being lost and the pacing of Act One, Act Two solved those problems and meshed much to the delight of the audience. One thing I did notice, appreciate and have to praise her for was her thoughtful and effective blocking throughout the entire show. The actors certainly got a workout on the stage and there were so many hilariously staged moments in the show that kept the audience chuckling. Her choreography with the doors was also a hilarious highlight of the show. I loved the set design by Sean Cochran that transported the audience into a luxury hotel suite. I especially enjoyed the soft and inviting color of the suite and the craftsmanship of the woodwork of the borders. The costumes, by talented designer Rosemary Smith were wonderful and gave all the appearances of an elegant evening at the opera. I loved the gorgeous gowns for the ladies (with the perfect over-the-top sparkle dress for Julia) and also the tacky opera costumes worn by Tito and Max.
Even for its occasional rushed lines, odd interpretations, and awkward timing, the show was still effective in bringing out the funny and kept the audience smiling and laughing and smiling throughout. LEND ME A TENOR is amusing audiences now through March 23rd at Vintage Theatre. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Vintage Theatre is located at 1468 Dayton Street in Aurora, CO. For tickets or more information, contact the box office by calling 303-856-7830 or online at www.vintagetheatre.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: DenverMind Media
Bethany Talley as Maggie and Jeff Jesmer as Tito