Since I don’t get to live theatre very often, I tend to forget how much I really do prefer it to seeing a movie, not that I see that many movies really, but I digress.
This past Friday, I had the opportunity to take in a little local theatre and saw 'Lend me a Tenor’ which could be sub-titled, 'a funny thing happened on the way to the opera,' performed by a troupe of very talented, and I would say Broadway bound, young people at the American Heritage School of Boca/Delray. The first thing I noticed was the intimate size of the venue, which was a 'black box,’ and seated perhaps 100 or so.
From the opening scene that prepares the audience for the entrance of 'World Famous Opera Singer Tito Merelli,’ the show was a laugh fest with more interwoven themes than a big basket full of little baskets.
We see Maggie, (played by Madison Spear) who is the not so faithful girlfriend of Max, (himself an aspiring Opera Singer, played by Joshua Lerner) swooning over the very thought of being in the same city, let alone the same room with Tito. Then of course we are delighted by the conniving, used car salesman-like Mr. Saunders who is the GM of the Cleveland Opera House, and wants only to get the show over and done with and send 'Tito’ packing on the next out bound train. From this comedic chaos comes one of the funniest lines in the show, when 'Julia,’ (Bridget Kelly) the Chair of the Opera Guild shows up in glittering formal array topped with a sparkling Tiara and 'Mr. Saunders’ suggests she resembles the Chrysler Building. And there is yet another element added when 'Diana,’ a vampish soprano who is determined to have her way with Tito asks Max to deliver an undeliverable message to him via an impassioned kiss that would have made Burt Lancaster in 'From here to Eternity’ blush.
Enter the 'Merelli’s,’ stage left! 'Tito,’ (Anthony Coons) enters the room feeling under the weather from the road and over-eating with hysterically near crazy, sex starved, and neurotic wife 'Maria,’ (Taylor Capizola) by his side. When people wonder why he over-ate to the point of sickness, 'Maria’ informs us as animatedly as possible, "…because he wants to grow…bazzooms.” When he spurns her advances in the next comedic moment, the audience, (especially those of us of Italian Heritage) just lost it in laughter.
From there, the show centers on the main theme of finding a replacement for the now 'dead’ Tito, Max and Mr. Saunders trying to hide the 'death,’ added to the mixed themes of Maggie and Diana both trying to figure how to be with Tito; Max and Mr. Saunders conspiring to have Max play Tito’s role; the 'Bell Hop,’ (Amos Jackson III) trying to figure it all out while getting Tito’s autograph; Maria confronting Diana when she finds her in the bedroom closet; and rumors of Tito running around town in a 'madman’ craze that includes punching a police officer while trying to get back into the show. All of this brilliant chaos comes to a hilarious head when the cast catches up in the final scene and they all realize their own deceptions, how they intermingle, and how they play off of each other with no-one admitting the scam.
And then, just in case anyone missed anything, the entire performance is recreated during a very different encore in an 80 second, laugh out loud funny re-cap of the highlights of the show.
'Lend Me A Tenor’ was an unqualified triumph for the students, the school, and the staff of American Heritage, and not wanting this show to end, I cannot wait to see the next offering by this very talented group of one day theatrical stars.