Review: Lend Me A Tenor

Currently on Sunday nights we’re fed a second innings of singing competition ‘Popstar to Operastar’ (does what it says on the tin).  As these forgotten stars screech and belt their way through every loved opera, my thoughts lie in the strength of these musical theatre tenors (and sopranos) lending themselves to opera with great aptitude and ability.

The classic musical farce sets the scene in 1934 with the Cleveland Grand Opera who face their demise as visiting Italian opera-star, Tito Merelli fails to turn up. Their production of Verdi’s Otello stands in jeopardy until prompter Max, somehow knowing the show, is shoved on to pose as the orange-faced tenor.  The fun only gets going as the confusion continues and Merelli himself appears, him too in his Otello costume and by some strain of pretext, the Theatre Manager is wearing one too.

Ian Talbot’s production does plenty to keep the plot boiling and the farce rising to almost torturous levels.  Peter Sham and Brad Carroll’s writing falls foul to the usual problem with many musical farces in that the music does occasionally slow the action, however it holds together well thanks to some delightful numbers.  The key ingredient for me is the attention to detail in this production.  Paul Farnsworth’s set is glorious, folding and changing like a glorious book to reveal sumptuous rooms and backdrops.  And too the fact that the director Ian Talbot was in the cast of Ken Ludwig’s original play, staged in 1986 at the Globe theatre, the very theatre it’s within now that was renamed the Gielgud in 1994 (thanks to Sir Cam).

There are fantastic performances here from Michael Matus as Tito Merelli, his comedy skills in particular bringing perfection to the confusion of the second Act. Cassidy Janson as Maggie is delightful and given a song to sink her teeth in to with ‘Fling’. Damian Humbley as Max gives gusto to the heroic yet down-trodden bespectacled stand-in and Matthew Kelly as Henry the Theatre Manager sighs his way through the action.

Its a terrific show with the classic feel of 1930’s musical farce, with the orchestra indulgently padded with reeds, gloriously carrying the transition under Colin Billing’s direction, through influences of jazz, into the glamour of 1930s America.  Sophie Louise Dann as Diana gave a hilarious rendition of every well-known aria from Tosca to Carmen, clawing her way around the room in the way of an old soprano.  More of these satirical opera parodies could be the only thing missing from this production.  Regardless of this, it’s an evening of delight and not one to be missed lightly.

Runs until 19th November 2011 at the Gielgud Theatre.

Copyright © theatreJunki 2011. Image copyright with Lend Me A Tenor.

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