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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Lend Me A Tenor

"Max, just remember from here on out its clear sailing…nothing can go wrong." — Saunders

Lend Me a Tenor
Photo Left to right: David Josefsberg, Michael Kostroff, John Treacy Egan
(Photo: Jerry Dalia)
As I previously reviewed Ken Ludwig’s opera-spoofing, door-slamming farcical 1989 comedy Lend Me A Tenor for CurtainUp when it was revived on Broadway in 2010, please check out that review for more details. I do, however, want to praise this terrifically acted and directed production now at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Despite anticipating all the silliness that comprises this hardy laugh-getter, my pleasure was increased by having my nine year old grandson as a companion who, without any prodding from me, applauded with apparent joy at the end of every scene and every bit of shtick.

Ludwig, who was in attendance on opening night and took a bow with the company, must have felt good hearing how enthusiastically the capacity audience reacted to his most successful comedy. The near-to-sublime farceurs, under the direction of Don Stephenson, helped to make this irresistibly inane romp a welcome response to the depressing news and nasty weather that has lately been thrust upon us.

Stephenson has staged this production with the kind of full-throttle ferocity the action calls for, as well as injecting into it the tiny traces of credibility that would otherwise belie this play’s inherent absurdities. To complement his apparent affection for the play, each member of the company has poured into his or her character an exactingly calculated element of lunacy.

A bespectacled David Josefsberg affixes an endearing nebbish-ness to his role as Max, the aspiring, but insecure, singer working as a gofer for a provincial (Cleveland) opera company. If John Treacy Egan has the bigger and broader countenance of a world-class Italian tenor, it is the many small but devilishly disarming expressions that make his performance a knockout…and not because his character succumbs to sedatives and liquor.

There is no confusion better than mass confusion and Michael Kostroff creates the prescribed surplus of raw-unnerved hysteria as Saunders, the opera company’s tyrannical but panic-stricken impresario who is forced to deal not only with Maria (a temper-tantrum fueled Judy Blazer) the tenor’s jealous wife, but with own willful daughter Maggie's (an adorable Jill Paice) reckless trysts.

Mark Price gets his share of laughs as well as a few well-rounded notes, as the obnoxious autograph-seeking bellhop. Nancy Johnston is delightfully daft as Julia, the awe-struck chairman of the opera guild. As the ambitious and lusty opera diva Diana, Donna English amuses in and out of her stylish wardrobe.

The action occurs on the evening of a gala Opera Guild benefit. The setting: a first-class hotel suite is designed by John Lee Beatty. It is similar if not identical to the one he created for the Broadway revival.

It says a lot for a comedy when you find yourself laughing heartily and so soon at the same lines and situations. More importantly, it says a lot for a company that can lend to it, besides a tenor, something fresh and new.
Lend Me A Tenor By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Don Stephenson

Cast: Jill Paice (Maggie), David Josefsberg (Max), Michael Kostroff (Saunders), John Treacy Egan (Tito Merelli), Judy Blazer (Maria), Mark Price (Bellhop), Donna English (Diana), Nancy Johnston (Julia)
Scenic Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Wade Laboissonniere
Lighting Design: Stephen Terry
Sound Design Matt Kraus
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
The Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, N.J.
(973) 376 – 4343
Tickets: $26 - $97
Performances: Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm.
From 02/13/13 Opened 02/17/13 Ends 03/1013
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/17/13

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