Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A COMEDY OF TENORS @ The Papermill Playhouse

In 2013 Paper Mill Playhouse produced Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor with director Don Stephenson at the healm. Now, over 3 years later, Stephenson and the original cast are back for its sequel, A Comedy of Tenors. This grand reunion paired with a hilarious script filled with hijinks makes for an evening filled with hysterics.
The title immediately gives you a clue as to what’s in store- borrowing its name from Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors, Ludwig’s sequel has all of the trademarks of an outrageous farce. From mistaken identities, to slamming doors, lots of sex, a little bit of opera, and of course a wedding to tie everything up, this 2-hour long show is a fast paced wild ride. Set 2 years after the events of the original, we find producer Saunders (Michael Kostroff) in a hotel room in Paris attempting to keep his opera performance together. Returning are Max (David Josefsberg) his son-in-law and aspiring opera performer, and world famous Tenor Tito (John Treacy Egan) along with his hot-headed wife Maria (Judy Blazer). Along for the ride is Tito and Maria’s daughter, aspiring actress Mimi (Jill Paice) with her boyfriend, the new opera star Carlo (Ryan Silverman), and Racón (Donna Englisch), a former fling of Tito’s. With Tito already feeling jealousy that his stardom is being outshone by bright Tenor Carlo, things escalate when he mistakenly believes his wife is having an affair with the young singer, not knowing he is actually the secret boyfriend of his beloved daughter. Shenanigans ensue, while Saunders tries to keep everyone from strangling each other and get them ready to sing for a soccer stadium full of fans.
Kostroff, Josefsberg, Egan, and Blazer all reprise their respective roles from Lend Me a Tenor, and they excel in them. Their familiarity with the characters allows for lots of nuances within the absurdity and a real sense of connection between one another. Egan particularly shines, tackling a duel role. Much like his portrayal of Franz Liebkind in Paper Mill’s recent production of The Producers, he is able to deftly navigate moments of over-the-top absurd anger and moments of pure joy and silliness; and here his voice is allowed to soar even more in the few operatic occasions featured. Egan is certainly the standout, commanding the stage for the majority of the evening. Also returning from The Producers are Kostroff and Josefsberg who had been Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom respectively. It is fun to see these two teamed up again and show off their deft comedy skills. The final returning cast member from the original Tenors is Judy Blazer as Maria, whose fierce hot-headed Italian attitude is especially delightful, and I only wish there had been even more of her throughout the show. The three new characters are all amusing, but it is Ryan Silverman as Carlo who really stands out. His voice is incredible, and he proves a skilled comedic actor as he serves as the catalyst for all the wacky goings-ons.
All of this crazy action takes place in a hotel room in Paris, with Michael Schweikardt’s scenic design setting a wonderful grand atmosphere, with luxurious adornments and a gorgeous terrace featuring the Parisian sky and a view of the Eiffel Tower. The lighting design by Stephen Terry was quite appropriately simple for the room, but its prowess was shown through the terrace. Subtly, throughout the progression of the play, the outside sky began to change color, effectively communicating the passage of time and providing an insight of urgency to the audience that time was running out for everything to come together for the fast approaching opera concert. Paper Mill favorite and returning director from Lend Me a Tenor, Stephenson navigates the ridiculous A Comedy of Tenors with skill, stretching out the wacky moments for an optimal amount of laughs, while still letting the heart of the characters come through.

With lots of slapstick, screaming, singing, scandal, and a stirring script, Paper Mill’s A Comedy of Tenors is a fun night of laughter and entertainment. If you were a fan of Ludwig’s original show and want to see how these zany characters end up, or if you’re a newcomer looking for a farce check out this uproarious comedy before it ends its limited run on Sunday, February 26.
Review By: April Sigler
Photos By: Jerry Dalia and Kevin Thomas Garcia

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