Lend Me A Tenor The Musical.jpg

Melinda Parrett as Maria Merelli in

Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical

Photo by Karl Hugh


‘Lend Me a Tenor’ worthy of standing ovation

The Spectrum & Daily News
St. George, UT, Sunday, July 8, 2007
— by Kathryn van Roosendaal

CEDAR CITY, UT. The Utah Shakespearean Festival has done it again.
Anticipation was high in the Randall L. Jones Theatre last Saturday as the audience waited for the curtain to rise on “Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical.” It was the world premiere of the musical - and only the fourth time the Festival has premiered a play in its 46-year history - and we were all eager to see what the artistic duo of Peter Sham and Brad Carroll had done to the classic play.
One word comes to mind: Brilliant.

The play is set in 1934 Cleveland. The Cleveland Grand Opera Company is getting ready for its opening of “Othello,” but the star of the show, famed tenor Tito Merelli, hasn’t arrived yet. The company’s director, Henry Saunders, is starting to panic and his assistant, Max Garber, can do nothing to placate him. Finally Tito arrives – just hours before the show is to begin - but he has a stomachache and, what’s more, he and his wife, Maria, are fighting again. Henry leaves Max to care for Tito, telling him to get him to the stage on time, keep him away from women and keep him away from wine. But Tito is determined to have a bottle of Chiani and the women - including Henry’s daughter Maggie - keep throwing themselves at the famous tenor. Then Tito’s wife leaves in a temper, leaving the opera star distraught and suicidal. A desperate Max drugs Tito, not knowing that he has already medicated himself, and when Tito fails to awaken from his nap, Max thinks the tenor has succeeded in killing himself. What can Max do except take Tito’s place on stage?

“Lend Me A Tenor” has always been a favorite of mine, with its intriguing cast of
characters and a plot of mistaken identities worthy of Shakespeare. Sham’s and
Carroll’s music and lyrics add a new dimension, making a good play into a great
musical. It leaves me wondering why it wasn’t written as a musical in the first place. And the voices in “Tenor” are spectacular. I have heard opera in New York (among them “Othello”) that didn’t sound as good as this cast - there the top stars tended to be strong and the supporting characters weak. Here it was hard to find a standout because they were all strong and the voices meshed beautifully.

If there is a standout, it is Jered Tanner, who pulls it off again as a thoroughly
convincing Max. He starts out with a weak, shaky voice and gains strength and a
beautiful tone with Tito’s help. Tanner also holds together the brilliant cast of
“Twelfth Night” this season as Feste, and he must be exhausted pulling off starring roles in both plays. This young man should be on Broadway - but we are very fortunate he isn’t. Tito and Maria Merelli (Steven Stein-Grainger and Melinda Parrett) were great as the squabbling Italian couple and were splendid in my favorite musical number “Would Choose-a You All Over Again,” a double duet between Tito and Maria and their younger selves (George Walker and Lisa Ferris) - all in Italian and complete with super-titles. Maggie Saunders (Jane Noseworthy) has a dulcet voice that contrasts with Max’s weak tones in the first act and then compliments his strengths in the second. And I can’t mention enough how well the whole cast came together.

And I can’t neglect the orchestra. Nothing adds more depth to a live musical like a live orchestra. The group is small - there just isn’t space in the Jones for a full 90-piece symphony - but they sounded big and beautiful.

“Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical” is worthy of every standing ovation it garners this season - and I can’t wait to see what Sham and Carroll come up with next.

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