Haslingfield Little Theatre

LEND ME A TENOR: REVIEW by NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)

Date of Review:    Friday, 20 May
Reviewer:              Julie Petrucci Regional Representative, NODA East District Four South.

Lend Me a Tenor was the first play by prolific playwright Ken Ludwig, which went on to enjoy enormous success in the West End and on Broadway. The play has also been transformed into a stage musical but, in my opinion, it works best the way it was originally intended -as a farce.

Whenever one sees a set with a multiplicity of doors, one knows one is about to encounter this genre. They are needed for slamming, hiding behind, eavesdropping,
providing privacy for forbidden moments and a plethora of entrances and exits. The rock-solid set was splendid, standing up to the door slamming requirement well and
augmented by some authentic looking set dressing which left one in no doubt we were in a mid-1930’s hotel. The costumes too were excellent. Phil Dale’s lighting design was very good and the many cues were ‘spot on’. The only flaw real flaw on the technical side was the telephone conversations which each fluctuated between being partly on speaker and one-sided only. I felt it should have been one or the other.

Set in Cleveland, Ohio, it’s the biggest night in the history of the Grand Opera Company who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the world’s greatest tenor Signor Tito Merelli – Il Stupendo -and his evening performance of Otello that will save the struggling company. But, then, the doors start slamming when womanising Tito is incapacitated and his wife’s goodbye note is mistaken for his suicide note! Max, the Opera Director’s meek assistant, is given the daunting task of finding a last-minute replacement. Chaos ensues – including a scheming soprano, a tenor-struck ingénue, a jealous wife and a frustrated stagestruck bell boy.

A conscious decision had obviously been made not to attempt American accents which was probably the correct one if not all of the cast felt confident in attempting it but maybe references for Cleveland and New York could have been changed or omitted.

John Beresford tackled his role as Saunders admirably, although I would have liked him to have been as forceful in the first half as he was later on. His daughter Maggie was played with panache by Katy Baker and Judith Brammar regally swished in and out of several scenes as Julia, the self-impressed, self-serving member of the board, who imagines herself more important and attractive than she really is. Janice Chambers as the diva Diana, made much of her minor role and Manuel Orta Simón was impressive as the Bellboy.

A major role is that of Max, the accommodating employee of Saunders, the wannabe opera star and the hopeful lover of Maggie. Philip Chapman met the huge challenge of this role as he transformed from wheedling to confident. His comic timing was absolutely excellent and his voice wasn’t bad either! A bravura performance.

Of course, the other strong role is that of Tito, tailor made for the voice and talent of David Smithet, who made the character completely believable. The only real match for Tito is Maria, superbly portrayed by Hilary Stokes. The argument between Tito and Maria was brilliant.

Directed by Judith Willows this was a well-executed production which showed Haslingfield Little Theatre at the top of their game where farce is concerned.