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A Comedy of Tenors
Max! What the hell are you doing?! Get up here!...I don't care if you're rehearsing, I need help. The concert starts in three hours and Tito isn't here yet. — Saunders —
John Treacy Egan and Judy Blazer (photo credit: Jerry Dalia)
It's easy to see what has gone slightly awry with the Paper Mill Playhouse of Ken Ludwig's dramatic farce, but it can be fixed. Why it isn't as consistently hilarious as it was in its world premiere at Princeton's McCarter Theatre almost two years ago can, be traced to way over the top performances and direction and staging that too often exceeds the boundaries of truly effective farce.

Without drawing too many comparisons between the two productions, I was initially encouraged to see that Don Stephenson has reunited members of the cast he previously directed in Lend Me a Tenor at the Paper Mill Playhouse but they need more time to inhabit rather than invade their roles.

As it is, there is plenty of fun to be had for audiences who are both new to the play and for those who remember and love Lend Me a Tenor. However, you only had to listen to the appreciable difference in audience response to the terrific Act II in contrast to their reaction to Act I to see the problem.

For those who may need a fast refresher course on characters, here goes: A trio of temperamental tenors (are there any other kind?) one wife, one lover and a few significant others have been recruited to create havoc, make love to the wrong person, slam the usual number of doors, leap head first off a balcony, hide, dress and undress in corresponding bedrooms and one pretending to be who he is not.

The absurdist situation involves a look-a-like hotel porter who amazingly sings, a talking pickled tongue and a nervous producer who can't keep the approaching preparations from spiraling out of control and into complete chaos. As it should, the play moves along at breakneck speed, but the laughs belong to Ludwig's gleeful text .

A Comedy of Tenors takes place two years after the events of Lend Me a Tenor. The events mostly concern the frustrations that beset the world-class tenor Tito Merelli (John Treacy Egan) as he arrives in Paris, accompanied (once again) by his tempestuous wife Maria (Judy Blazer) to sing at a gala concert. The gimmick is that he is contracted to sing with two other tenors Max (David Josefsberg) and Carlo (newcomer Ryan Silverman) for what has been promoted by their high-anxiety producer Saunders (Michael Kostroff) as "the biggest concert in the history of Paris."

All the action takes place in a luxurious suite in a swanky Paris hotel (handsomely designed by Michael Schweikardt) in which a little hanky-panky is already in progress. Unknown to Tito is the affair that is going on between his beguiling daughter Mimi (Jill Paice) and Carlo of whom Tito not only disapproves but who he mistakenly believes is having an affair with his wife. Add the singing hotel porter (also played by Egan who, except for his beard, is the spitting image of Tito) and a sexy Russian soprano (Donna English)— who, unbeknownst to Maria, once had had a torrid affair with Tito. Max, who was Saunder's assistant in Lend Me a Tenor and his now his son-in-law, is anxious to get through the concert before his wife (unseen) goes into labor.

If some of the outrageous behavior as guided by director Stephenson needs reigning in, the ensemble has been corralled to work seamlessly as a team and individually as shameless scene-stealers. There are opportunities for designer Mariah Hale's period-perfect costumes to steal a scene or two.

If A Comedy of Tenors too often mistakes frantic for funny, it does so in the age-old tradition of farce that inspired and sometimes even confounded many playwrights from Plautus to Moliere to George S. Kaufman.

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A Comedy of Tenors by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Don Stephenson

Cast: Michael Kostroff (Saunders), David Josefsberg (Max), Judy Blazer (Maria), John Treacy Egan (Tito), Jill Paice (Mimi), Ryan Silverman(Carlo), Donna English (Racon)
Scenic Design: Michael Schweikardt
Costume Design: Michael Schweikardt
Lighting Design: Stephen Terry
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Music Direction & Arrangements: Alexander Kariotis
Fight Direction: Michael Rossmy
Production Stage Manager: Gary Mickelson
Running Time: 1 hour 50 including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, N.J.
Performances: Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm.
From 02/01/17 Opened 02/05/17 Ends 02/26/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/05/17

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from A Comedy of Tenors | Reviewed 02/05/17 | Closing 02/26/17