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Justin Bartha and Tony Shalhoub in Lend Me A Tenor
Photo by Joan Marcus

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Lend Me A Tenor: NY Daily News

by Joe Dziemianowicz

Speed, finesse and keen comic chops are key ingredients to any farce.

Happily, they're all in ample supply in director Stanley Tucci's antic revival of "Lend Me a Tenor."

Even so, it doesn't quite cover the fact that Ken Ludwig's play, first on Broadway in 1989, is a yoyo yukfest. There are lots of laughs and lots of lulls.

The story, set in 1934, swirls around Tito Merelli, a famous tenor set to lead a benefit performance of "Otello" for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company.

Unforeseen circumstances (i.e., misunderstandings and an overdose of tranquilizers) force Max, a company lackey who can sorta sing, to impersonate Tito.

Cue: Chaos, hookups and a mistaken-identity gag that gets played (actually, overplayed) every which way - and loose.

Dramatic actor Anthony LaPaglia proves himself a deft comic as skirt-chaser Tito and Jan Maxwell is living laughing gas as his hissing, howling hellcat of a wife, Maria. She outdoes this season's earlier standout female comic turn - also hers, in "The Royal Family."

The evening's great surprise: Justin Bartha, known for adorable sidekick roles in "National Treasure" and "The Hangover." He's fall-down funny and owns the show as mild-mannered-turned-manly Max.

Tony Shalhoub, Mary Catherine Garrison and Jennifer Laura Thompson lend fine support as, respectively, the opera company GM, his daughter and a diva.

Thanks to sly business devised by Tucci, which I won't reveal, folks in orchestra center get various keepsakes. Don't be jealous. Some may whisper, "Lend me a tissue."

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