|Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub, and Justin Bartha in Lend Me a Tenor |
Photo: Joan Marcus
Tony Shalhoub plays Saunders, the producer of an opera with a missing and unwell Italian tenor. Shalhoub, the master of the pause, takes a beat and turns it into comic mastery; just watching his face will make you laugh. Tito Merelli, played by Anthony LaPaglia is cursed with a philandering temperament and a gastrointestinal problem. His wife Maria is played by the talented Jan Maxwell, who has a glorious time playing the fed-up spouse. Justin Bartha, from last year's hit film "The Hangover," plays Saunders' assistant and instant understudy. Bartha is sublime in the role of Max as he goes from uptight geek to his own version of the pompous lothario, Tito. Not only is he Saunders' able assistant but he also hopes to be his son-in-law by marrying his daughter Maggie, pertly played by Mary Catherine Garrison.
Jan Maxwell, Tony Shalhoub and Jay Klaitz in Lend Me a Tenor
Photo: Joan Marcus
Everyone wants a piece of Tito, including Tito's intended operatic co-star Diana, played by Jennifer Laura Thompson, who is hot to have him make her a star. Jay Klaitz plays a bug-eyed opera enthusiast who has the best entrance in the show; his performance will tickle your ribs. All he wants is to be close to "Il Stupendo" (Tito). Brook Adams (Shaloub's real-life wife of 18 years) plays the chairman of the Opera Guild, Julia.
The setting is a posh hotel room beautifully and functionally designed by John Lee Beatty. If you had just walked in off the street without any idea what you were about to see, you probably would be able to guess you were going to see a farce based solely upon the number of doors on the set - five. The events all take place on the day that the Opera Guild is to hold its benefit with a production of Otello. After Tito eventually shows up, Saunders charges his assistant Max with watching and taking care of him. He warns him to give him whatever he wants except, women and liquor. The difficult tenor refuses to take his medicine. After much badgering by his wife Maria, he swallows three of the pills only to have Max mix a few more into his wine. Before long, the tenor is out cold and the madness ensues.
Ken Ludwig has incorporated all the necessary elements of farce, the doors slamming and broad physical comedy, mistaken identity, and plenty of slapstick humor. While there are better crafted farces (Noises Off comes to mind), the sheer energy of this cast under Stanley Tucci's taut direction make this silly bit of frivolity a perfectly enjoyable evening.