A riot of slamming doors, a mistaken identity and a script that skips from one hilarious crisis to the next.
That’s what Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor is made of.
Denton Community Theatre’s production of the farce opens this weekend — and co-directors Buster Maloney and Donna Trammell are driving their cast and crew through a fast-paced staging.
Lend Me a Tenor is a comedy about a Midwestern opera company pulling out all the stops to stage a major opera starring international opera star Tito Merelli — aka “Il Stupendo.” Henry Saunders, the general manager of the opera, is bent on Tito making it into the spotlight with no mishaps. He drives his assistant general manager, Max, to distraction with his handwringing over the opera.
Max — an aspiring opera singer himself — waffles between soothing Henry and wooing Henry’s daughter, Maggie. Tito finally arrives with his long-suffering and temperamental wife Maria in tow. The Cleveland Grand Opera cast and staff are drawn to Tito’s star quality, and soprano Diana means to charm her co-star into a spot at the Met. Julia, the opera’s guild chairwoman, only wants to introduce Tito to the donors. And the bellhop is dying to get an autograph.
Actor Jason Lee (no relation to the film actor) and actress Vanessa Welch again play a couple (they played a pair of betrothed adventurers in the recent Southwest premiere of Bullshot Crummond in the Evil Eye of Jabar). Their Tito and Maria are predictably stormy, as opposed to Caleb Norris and Ellie Armitage as the meeker and more hesitant Max and Maggie.
Bill Kirkley rants and blusters as the amped-up Saunders, and Kerri Peters is a calculating Diana. Belinda King’s Julia keeps up appearances and Andrew Brown is the nearly frantic bellhop
A misunderstanding involving a jealous Maria and a starstruck Maggie gets the ball rolling toward disaster — which involves an overdose of sedatives, panicked deceptions and a whole lot of “the show must go on.”
Before diving into the show, Trammell and Maloney made a decision about the play. In the original script, the opera company is staging Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. The tradition of blackface in the famous opera accounts for the mistaken identity in the plot — there are two Otellos in the house, Tito and Max, but everyone thinks Tito is the one and only Otello.
“We talked about it,” Trammell said. “We didn’t really want to do blackface, so we decided to change it to Pagliacci, the opera about the tragic clown [by Ruggero Leoncavallo]. That way, the characters are wearing the clown makeup.”
Maloney said shortly after they made the change, they got a notification from Samuel French, the publisher that licenses the comedy.
“They told us that the script had been changed from Otello to Pagliacci, and that’s how the show has to be done,” he said. “It’s funny that we’d just made the same exact change.”