A COMEDY OF TENORS Continues Walnut Street Theatre Season
Walnut Street Theatre continues its landmark 210th season with the uproarious Ken Ludwig's A COMEDY OF TENORS. Directed by and starring Frank Ferrante, this over-top-top comedy from Tony Winner Ken Ludwig begins previews on January 15th, opens on January 23rd, and runs through March 3rd on the Walnut's Mainstage.
One hotel suite, two wives, three girlfriends, four tenors, and a soccer stadium filled with screaming fans. What could possibly go wrong? It's 1930's Paris and just hours away from "The Concert of the Century!" But love affairs, bedroom hijinks, mistaken identities, and opening-night chaos have producer Henry Saunders desperate to try just about anything for the show to go on.
Ken Ludwig's A COMEDY OF TENORS is written in the same world as Ludwig's famed 1986 play, Lend Me A Tenor. That show introduced many of the same characters including Tito Merelli, Saunders, Max, and Maria and garnered Ludwig several Tony and Olivier nominations. After seeing the audience's enjoyment of the 2010 revival of Lend Me a Tenor, Ludwig knew he wanted to return to his "band of loonies" and write a new show. The madcap idea was based on a real event - a 1990 charity concert staged on the eve of the World Cup soccer finals and starring the three greatest tenors in the world, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. The concert, deemed "The Three Tenors," was a wild success. To this day, the album is the best-selling classical album of all time and has been called the "classical concert of the century."
Ludwig's version takes the action back to 1930's France and in the hours leading up to his version of the famed "concert of the century." From there, the show follows the format of a traditional farce, complete with mistaken identities, romantic coupling, buoyant sexiness, and a myriad of word-play. Ken Ludwig's A COMEDY OF TENORS had its world premiere in 2015 as a co-production between Cleveland Play House and McCarter Theatre. Since then, it has been performed in the regional theatres across the United States and has been praised for its "non-stop madcap hilarity."
Tony Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig is local to the Philadelphia area, having grown up in York, and is thrilled to see this show make its Walnut debut. "I love Philly. While I'm a native of York, PA, Philly has been a favorite stomping ground since my childhood," Ludwig noted. "I'm delighted to have any occasion to spend time in Philadelphia, especially at the Walnut Street Theatre, one of my all-time favorite theatres in the country. A COMEDY OF TENORS is my fifth show to be presented at the Walnut and I couldn't be happier!"
Ken Ludwig has had six shows on Broadway, beginning with the critically acclaimed Lend Me a Tenor, which garnered Ludwig seven Tony nominations and two wins. His musical, Crazy for You, won the Tony Award and Olivier Award for Best Musical in 1992. Ludwig has also been awarded the Charles MacArthur Award, two Helen Hayes Awards, the Edgar Award for Best Mystery from The Mystery Writers of America, the SETC Distinguished Career Award, and the Edwin Forrest Award for Services to the American Theatre. A Comedy of Tenors is one of his most recent works, along with Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (performed at the Walnut last season) and Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol (2015 Helen Hayes Award nominee for Outstanding Play). His newest book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, (winner of the Falstaff Award for Best Shakespeare Book of 2014) is published by Random House. The Walnut has produced many of Ludwig's works including Lend Me a Tenor (1992), Crazy for You (1997), and Moon Over Buffalo (1998), and Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (2018).
Director and actor Frank Ferrante returns to the Walnut to direct, and play the role of Tito Merelli. On the Walnut's Mainstage, Ferrante has directed shows including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound and Lost in Yonkers. He directed and performed in shows including A Funny Thing...Forum, Laughter On The 23rd Floor, The Sunshine Boys, and Groucho: A Life in Revue. He made his Off-Broadway debut in Groucho, for which he earned New York's Theatre World Award and an Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination. He also performed in the show's West End run, for which he was nominated for a Olivier Award. At Walnut's Independence Studio on 3, Ferrante starred in the self-penned By George and directed the world premiere of Old Wicked Songs, a subsequent Pulitzer Prize finalist. Ferrante continues to perform his comic creation 'The Caesar' in cirque/cabaret venues worldwide.
Tito's wife with be played by Karen Peakes, who was last seen at the Walnut alongside Fran Prisco in Last of the Red Hot Lovers. She was also seen in Private Lives, Of Mice and Men, and Born Yesterday. Tito's long-suffering assistant will be played by Walnut veteran Ben Dibble in his 20th Walnut Mainstage production! In addition to performing in this season's Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, and last season's Noises Off, Annie, and A Funny Thing...Forum, Dibble has also performed at the Walnut in Saturday Night Fever, Harvey, High Society, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, Arsenic and Old Lace, 9 to 5 the Musical, and Hairspray. The short-tempered producer will be played by Scott Greer. Walnut audiences will remember Greer from his appearances in A Funny Thing...Forum, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Les Misérables, Of Mice and Men and Oliver!.
Tito's daughter, Mimi, will be played by Alanna J. Smith, most recently seen in last season's Noises Off and A Funny Thing...Forum. A previous Walnut Acting Apprentice, Smith was also seen in The Importance of Being Earnest, Wizard of Oz, and A Christmas Story. Mimi's lover, Carlos, will be played by Jacob Tischler - back for his third show at the Walnut this season after performing in Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn and Matilda. Walnut audiences will also recognize him from his performance as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (2017). Tito's former lover, Racón, will be played by Dreya Weber in her Walnut debut. An accomplished actor and director, Weber has performed at the Center Theatre Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, and New York Shakespeare Festival, and directed the cirque cabaret hit Sensatia at the Faena resort and An Evening with Groucho at Milwaukee Rep and Cincinnati Playhouse. She has also conceived aerial choreography for PINK's Glitter In The Air and Try for the Grammys, Michael Jackson's This is It, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Madonna, and Cher.
Creating the lavish 1930's hotel room where bedroom hijinks, slamming doors, and unbridled passion abound, is a production team led by set designer David P. Gordon. Gordon's designs have been seen at the Walnut for shows including Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound. He is joined by Costume Designer Mary Folino, whose work at the Walnut includes Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, Matilda, and The Humans. Shon Causer (The Humans, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Arsenic and Old Lace, Driving Miss Daisy) returns as lighting designer, along with award-winning Sound Designer Christopher Colucci (The Humans, Peter and the Starcatcher, And Then There Were None).
Ken Ludwig's A COMEDY OF TENORS runs at the Walnut Street Theatre from January 15 through March 3. Open captioning will be available for the 7pm performance on Sunday, February 10. This production is sponsored by the Louis and Bessie Stein Foundation. Media Partners are 6ABC and Metro Philadelphia. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.
Photo courtesy of the Walnut Street Theatre.