Lend Me A Tenor–The Show Must Go On at RVP

Laura Domingo as Maria, Craig Christiansen as Tito and Gwen Kingston as Maggie in Ross Valley Players’ production of Lend Me a Tenor

Ross Valley Players opens their 83rd season with Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig, directed by Kris Neely and produced by Anne Ripley.

In 1934, renowned tenor Tito Morelli (Craig Christiansen) is scheduled to sing the lead in Otello. The opera is being produced as a gala fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company.  Unfortunately, even before the star leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel.  Chaos ensues when Morelli’s wife, Maria (Laura Domingo), who has mistaken an autograph-seeker hidden in the closet for a secret lover, leaves him a Dear John letter. The distraught Morelli, accidentally, is given  double dose of tranquilizers to calm him and passes out. Saunders, the company’s General Manager (David Kester) is determined that the show will go on (for his own financial interest), so he asks his assistant Max (Robert Nelson) to impersonate the opera star.  Max puts on the black-faced makeup required for the role of Otello and his disguise succeeds admirably–until Morelli, also in black-face, wakes up and heads for the stage. What follows is a chain reaction of mistaken identity, farcical plot twists, double entendres, innuendoes and constant entrances and exits through six different doors.

Kris Neely takes on the directorial challenge of creating a three-ring circus of slamming doors, double takes and pratfalls at top speed and top volume in his eight character romp. In the slapstick sweepstakes, David Kester, as the long-suffering director of the opera company, wins hands down, followed by Robert Nelson and Craig Christiansen who do a wonderful second act dance as the two Otellos being pursued by women (Christina Jacqua as a lecherous dowager, Gwen Kingston as an ingenue admirer, Dylan Cooper as a prima donna who hopes seducing the tenor may be her ticket to the Met and Amanda Grey as a sexy female bellhop in awe of the tenor).  Laura Domingo as the tenor’s long (but not silently) suffering wife, was almost as skillful and overblown in her stage Italian as her husband in their arguments.

There were lots of opportunities for actors to hustle in and out of the six doors in Ken Rowland’s handsome red and white set, hiding in bedrooms and closets, disappearing in the nick of time into the hallway or the kitchen.  The beautiful costumes by Michael A. Berg are easy on the eyes.

Lend Me A Tenor achieves true comic delirium at the curtain call when the cast romps through a mimed version of the lunatic plot in about two minutes.  Those two minutes are more charming and fundamentally funnier than the two hours of hard labor that have come before.

Lend Me A Tenor runs September 14-October 14 at Ross Valley Players’ Barn Theatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 415-456-9555, ext. 1.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players will be You Can’t Take It With You by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, directed by Jim Dunn, November 16-December 16, 2012.