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Anthony LaPaglia and Tony Shalhoub in Lend Me A Tenor

Photo by Joan Marcus

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Lend Me a Tenor's Highest Note: The Huffington Post

By Regina Weinreich
The Huffington Post

A farce in the manner of Feydeau, Ken Ludwig's 1986 Lend Me a Tenor revived at the Music Box Theater and directed by Stanley Tucci, has laughs aplenty as doors -and bodies-- slam in a 1934 Cleveland hotel suite.

In anticipation of a production of Verdi's Otello, the opera's impresario, Saunders, sweats the arrival of the starred tenor. Finally blustering in, his jealous wife in tow, the renowned "Il Stupendo" needs a nap. A drug-induced sleep threatens: will this show go on?

And how! Okay, you have to suspend your disbelief big time for this corny material: Tito Merelli, the tenor, just happens to have two costumes on hand, convenient for Max, the impresario's homme d'affaires to step in. Two Otellos in black face and regal robe spell mistaken identity. One sings, the other is taken for a crasher. Guess which?

A high point of Act II is when each Otello makes it with a starry eyed fan, on a couch in the suite's sitting room, and in the bedroom, a visual split screen. The women are deliciously clueless: An infatuated Maggie, Saunders' daughter, played cutely by Mary Catherine Garrison; an overheated soprano, Diana, played coyly by Jennifer Laura Thompson; and, the temperamental, forgiving wife Maria played with zesty accent by Jan Maxwell. Only Brooke Adams is off as Julia, the chair of the opera gala with strait-laced haute grandeur; more matronly prudery would be funnier.

Ah the men: Tony Shalhoub handsome in tux as Saunders, Anthony LaPaglia, bloated in brocade, and the surprise: Justin Bartha is charming as Max. Maggie had thrown herself at him, thinking he was the Italian tenor. Her, "I'm glad it was you," suggests that times in the '30's midwest were racy indeed as imagined in this delightful period comedy.

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