The new Broadway revival of Lend Me a Tenor, written by Ken Ludwig, is the perfect example of what happens when eight comedic geniuses, led by an all star director, get together to put on a show. Lend Me a Tenor is comedic dynamite that delivers laughs from start to finish. It is a must see production!Lend Me a Tenor tells the story what happens when the great Italian opera singer Tito Merelli (Anthony LaPaglia) comes to Cleveland for a one night only performance of “Otello.” Through a series of door slamming events, Tito is mistaken for dead leaving Saunders (Tony Shalhoub), the Opera’s General Manager, with no other option other than to put his assistant, Max (Justin Bartha), in as the understudy. What happens next is a series of mistaken identities that is nothing short of hilarious. Who said what to whom? Who slept with whom? Who know what? Julia (Brooke Adams), the Chairman of the Board, claims to have convinced Tito come to the after party. Saunders daughter, Maggie (Mary Catherine Garrison), and the leading lady, Diana (Jennifer Laura Thompson), both claim that they slept with Tito at the same time. The bellhop (Jay Klaitz) claims to have received an order from Tito. On top of all of this confusion, Tito’s crazy tempered wife, Maria (Jan Maxwell), comes back into the picture after having left him in the beginning of the show. So, who was talking to the real Tito and who was actually talking to Max in disguise? Well, you will simply have to go see the show for yourself.
While all eight actors give truly hilarious performances, Lend Me a Tenor is powered by its three leading men. Anthony LaPaglia, known for his run on the CBS series “Without a Trace,” delivers a beautifully funny performance. LaPaglia had a way of commanding attention on the stage that made you constantly want to pay attention to every little thing that he did. Known for being a more dramatic actor, LaPaglia definitely proved that he has a funny side as well; his comedic timing was spot on. There is no better fit for the part of Tito, the hot headed and womanizing Italian, than LaPaglia. Tony Shalhoub, known for his wonderful run on the USA series “Monk,” delivers a non-stop high energy performance. With pitch perfect comedic timing, Shalhoub has the audience eating right out of his hands (with the audience receiving the random bits of plastic food that he spits out into the audience). Shalhoub is a comedic genius that fit the part of the easily angered manager perfectly. Justin Bartha, known for his portrayal of Doug in the hit comedy “The Hangover,” makes his Broadway debut in Lend Me a Tenor. Bartha was absolutely brilliant and held his own amongst the slew of seasoned Broadway greats. His portrayal of the over worked assistant Max was absolutely stunning. Barely ever leaving the stage, Bartha was able to anchor the entire show without missing a beat. With not only great comedic timing but a great singing voice as well, Bartha made his debut with a bang. While it is a man’s show, one woman steals the spotlight every time that she is on stage. This is of course the wonderful Jan Maxwell, a Broadway great who was nominated for a Tony Award for this performance. While Maxwell is only in two scenes, she is so fantastic that she received the loudest round of applause during the curtain call. She is the perfect fit to play the crazy, loud, and jealous Italian wife of Tito. In three words, Maxwell is brilliant.
The technical elements of Lend Me a Tenor were very good, but did have some weak spots. The scenic design, however, was not one of those spots. Designed by John Lee Beatty, the set was absolutely stunning. Designed with stunning detail and precision, it is definitely one of the best sets to hit Broadway this season. Another high point came in the costume design. Designed by Martin Pakledinaz, the costumes held true to the 1930s time period that the play is set in. Together, the set and costumes allowed the audience to travel back to the 1930s and fully enter the world of Lend Me a Tenor. One weak spot came in the lighting design. Designed by Kenneth Posner, the lighting has several dark spots in which the actors would sometimes not be lit. Also, the scenic design featured a huge window, but the lighting designed worked against it by never changing the brightness of the outside city (there was no difference in light weather it was 10:00 A.M. or 11:00 P.M.). However, the audience was willing to look past that because of the beautiful direction of Stanley Tucci, known for his outstanding career in movies and television. Tucci made his stage directorial debut with this production and did a fantastic job. While there were some flaws in his direction (like allowing the actors to sometime talk into walls and break fourth walls that had been established), Tucci did an overall wonderful job with his debut.
Lend Me a Tenor is a wickedly funny show that is a must see for everyone. While it may not sound like the typical show that a college student would go see, I promise that you will not regret it. The humor is extremely current with plenty of sexual innuendos to go around. And, if worse comes to worse, you can at least say that you saw one of the stars of the mega college hit “The Hangover.” Have no fear, Lend Me a Tenor is one of the shows that provide the cheaper rush tickets for students. Run, don’t walk, to see the hit Broadway revival of Lend Me a Tenor (playing at the Music Box Theatre through August 15, 2010).
Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti