LEND ME A TENORby Ken Ludwig
Rockwall Community Playhouse
Directed by – Jill Lightfoot
Set Design – Edgar Leonardo Hernandez
Costume Design – Mary Rose Duncan
Sound Design – Daniel Bergeron
Lighting Design – Edgar Leonardo Hernandez
Props Design – Cathryn Harris
Stage Manager – Kally Duncan
Trisha Romo – Maggie
Dalton Elza – Max
Patrick Persons – Saunders
Aaron Lett – Tito Merelli
Cathryn Harris – Maria
Ryan Ramirez – Bellhop
Victoria Wells – Diana
Mildred Austin – Julia
Greg Morrison – Radio Announcer
Reviewed Performance: 5/19/2018
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Trisha Romo opens the play as Maggie, a huge fan of opera star Tito Merelli. She is cute and perky and obviously infatuated with the singer...almost to an unrealistic, unhealthy degree. Ms. Romo has lots of stage presence and good comic timing, (although she occasionally scrunches her face up and we lose her expressions), and she interacts well with Dalton Elza, who plays Max. Mr. Elza’s performance is somewhat uneven. At times, he has great energy and physical presence, while at others he seems far too calm and laid back, especially considering everything going on around him. When he gets into it, though, his physical comedy is very impressive.
Patrick Persons perfectly masters the role of Saunders. He blusters his way through the ridiculous situation in which he finds himself, yet makes it obvious why he’s in charge. He’s just one of those bosses we love to hate, yet Mr. Persons doesn’t make him a caricature. There’s still some humanity there.
As our star Il Stupendo (aka Tito Merelli) Aaron Lett beautifully embodies the role. He does a credible Italian accent and exudes all the confidence that being a true star of his time provides. We also get to see him fall apart when he believes his wife has left him, and Mr. Lett also handles this vulnerability well.
As Tito’s boisterous wife Maria, Cathryn Harris doesn’t quite match the high bar set by Mr. Lett, as her frustration with him at the beginning of the play seems a bit forced. She does much better later in the play when we see how much she truly loves him, as their chemistry together is excellent. And by then, we’re definitely rooting for them to make it.
Victoria Wells plays the sultry Diana with the pure poise of someone who knows she is attractive and understands how to use that to her advantage. Ryan Ramirez deftly portrays the Bellhop as an eager fan boy of Tito Merelli combined with the boredom of his “day job.” Mildred Austin brings a silly elegance to Julia and her fantastic Chrysler Building dress, while attempting to keep things organized and on schedule.
Set designer Edgar Leonardo Hernandez has created a lovely, seemingly simple hotel suite for all the craziness, featuring lots of doors (naturally), and his soft lighting design complements the muted colors of the 1930s set. My only quibble was with the unused upright piano in the main sitting area of the suite, as it was never touched or even referred to.
Mary Rose Duncan provides the costume design, including perfectly matching Otello costumes for Max and Tito. Despite the huge difference in height and girth of the actors, the costumes, wigs, and beards brought them to a much more believable likeness than I would have imagined. In every other production of Lend Me a Tenor that I have seen or been a part of, the actors wore dark makeup as Otello (as directed in the script) instead of the beards. With racial tensions and the political climate the way they are, I don’t think this was a bad choice, as it accomplished the disguise aspect of the play quite well without being offensive to anyone. As an added bonus, it kept the ladies from being covered in dark makeup after their make-out sessions with their respective Otellos.
Daniel Bergeron’s sound design is filled with appropriately period bells, opera snippets, and sound effects, adding nicely to the 1930s vibe of the play. Cathryn Harris’ offstage role as props designer/set dresser is accomplished beautifully, complete with period suitcases and telephone.
Lend Me a Tenor is one of those perfect farces that should be required viewing by anyone remotely interested in the theatre (and even opera), and Rockwall Community Playhouse’s production is a good one. The audience at the performance I attended laughed non-stop, and rightly so. Do yourself a favor and go see the show yourself to find out why.
Rockwall Community Playhouse
609 E. Rusk St.
Rockwall, TX 75087
Runs through May 27
Actual days: Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $ 15-20
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.rockwallcommunityplayhouse.org or call the box office at 972-722-3399.