BWW Reviews: Monomoy Theater's LEND ME A TENOR
Chatham's Monomoy Theater has done it again, and this time in my opinion has surpassed anything it has done thus far with its production of the ridiculously comical Lend Me a Tenor, which will unfortunately have a rather short but undoubtedly glorious run. To be very straightforward from the start, this is (in my opinion) the manifestation of a perfect play, as it provides everything that an audience needs to induce booming, perpetual laughter and causes each person to think of or describe the show in terms of giddy superlatives. It is a perfect theatrical specimen, one which I have never seen before, and to have first witnessed this beauty of a show upon Monomoy's stage was an absolute privilege; this point I cannot emphasize enough. I usually don't do this so early in the review, but a premature shout-out to the cast and creative team of this show is imperative. They are the show, and the show was a triumph, so therefore they must all be given credit for the absurd amount of talent these people grace their audiences with each night, if only for a few of them in this case. Bravo to all of you for making this one hell of an enjoyable night, but more of that later! So, Lend Me a Tenor at Monomoy Theater is, in short, one of the best shows I have seen on the Cape this summer thus far.
Directed by Francesca James, Lend Me a Tenor is beyond brought - it is more like jolted to life in Monomoy's current production of Ken Ludwig's Tony-winning comedy, and to say that it is anything but brilliant this time around is a severe understatement. It is one of the only productions I have seen in a long time where I was actually dreading the end of the first act, not knowing if it ended as it did or if it was to be continued after intermission; thankfully, Act Two did indeed happen and did anything but disappoint. It is also one of those shows which, after the curtain has closed, persuade people to drag their family and friends to see so that they, too, may understand how epic it truly is. It is a shame that there are only a few performances available to see, but if you are free this Friday or Saturday, Monomoy Theater is where you should be spending some time.
A description of the show pales in comparison to what you will see on stage, but a synopsis of the show will give you an idea of what you're in for. Lend Me a Tenor tells the story of the world renowned Tito Morelli (or Il Stupendo, as he is sometimes referred to) and the mess-up that happens on an hilariously catastrophic level once he arrives for a one-night only performance as Otello at the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. Between taking a bit too much medication to please his wife, who has accompanied him and serves as an ever-present moderator against his yearning for bosoms and fears for hidden women in closets, the Opera committee who will do anything to ensure that this rather hit-or-miss specimen of an international star will make it to and through the night's performance and a conglomerate of women and one overly enthusiastic bellhop that want nothing more than to spend some time with the singer, and this show is already set with enough twists, turns and craziness to last an entire evening. Oh...did I mention that this all happens under the presumption that Morelli is dead in the next room? I shall let your curiosity as to what happens convince you to come and see what happens next.
As I gave premature but just praise to before, the actors of this production are brilliant, to the point where I truthfully cannot say it enough. I am always intrigued by actors because of their talents, their ability to feel every emotion they portray so deeply and adeptly and overall the stamina to go up on stage every night and perform before an audience so effortlessly and proudly, they make everyone there want to be just like them in some shape or form. Well, those involved in this performance really raised the expectations of theatergoers for future productions, as they were simply outstanding; I think "wow" is a legitimate word to use here. Darren Brown (Morelli) is back after appearing as the lead in Damn Yankees on this same stage a few short weeks ago, and he is mesmerizing as an actor. He must play a character who is confident enough upon his arrival that he has no need for pre-show rehearsal, tormented by his wife's sudden departure after indeed finding a woman in the closet and then bamboozled by the inexplicable fact that someone who is now he performed as Otello that night, and performed it beyond impeccably to boot. I really can't say enough about how awesome it was watching him with the utmost confidence in his character, and then watching it all crumble when he tries to piece together what the heck is going on after he supposedly rises from the dead. And that accent!
Stephen Mir (who plays Max, and is another Damn Yankees veteran) is one of those people that has so much energy and enthusiasm rubbing off on people, it's infectious. He is another actor who must navigate his way through an array of different emotions (at one point acting the part of Morelli himself), and the ease with which he bounced back and forth, meanwhile not letting any feeling he had escape him without it being powerful enough to make quite the impact, is just incredible. Both Brown and Mir are examples of spectacular performers, as they kept the show going with such energy and alacrity that it really was a pleasure watching them both on stage.
Sarah Killough*, who plays the somewhat innocent Maggie and daughter of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company's right hand man Saunders, is back (from Damn Yankees!) to play this rather interesting role. I've already sung her praises in my last review, and I still think she is an awesome, awesome actress. She is perpetually smiling and becomes giddy at what might soon occur between herself and the famous Morelli, and she fits right in with this cooky plot of people running in and out of doors, being chased by the police and proving to themselves that they are not crazy; honestly, her performance was stellar and made this whole experience that much more enjoyable. Saunders himself (played by Bryce Wood) has these amazing moments when he is just angry, and then all of a sudden is on the move to make it all better (after flashing to the audience one of those gradual, "I've got something on my mind" smirks that make the entire theater erupt with laughter). Wood maintains that same sense of energy that keeps his character always active and always on edge that makes him so funny to watch while also hoping that he will calm down at the end!
Now we have Maria (played by Arlene Bozich), Morelli's wife who is wary of the escapades he might be having with other women. She is absolutely hilarious to watch, as she is a waterfall of emotion on that stage as she navigates her way through feeling utterly upset by her husband to allowing him one more chance before she feels compelled to break down the bathroom door to drag him out by whatever limb she can grab hold of. Diana (Sari Koppel) and Julia (Colleen Welsh) are, again, just two more amazing actresses who belong in this catastrophe of people chosen to grace this stage, and watching them manipulate their way into and out of one situation or another is honestly something to behold. And what stage presence! Lastly, I have to give special mention to the Bellhop (Nate Healey), as he really was one of my favorite characters. I wanted to hug him each time he came on stage, as his desire to meet Morelli at any cost, mixed in with Saunders and Max trying to cover up the dead body in the next room and everyone waiting for Morelli after "his" epic performance in the hotel living room, is really one of the most exciting things that can happen on stage. Healey is always on the other side of the door, waiting for the chance to come in, and it is just so exciting to watch a bellhop make his way into this mess with such pizzazz.
So in short, everyone was pretty great.
Lend Me a Tenor began performances at Monomoy Theater (located at the 776 Main Street in Chatham) on July 14th, and will continue thru July 18th. Tickets may be purchased at the box office, by calling (508) 945-1589 or by visiting http://www.monomoytheatre.org/. Ticket prices vary, but regardless, the show is worth the price.
Photo Credit: Dawniella Sinder