A typical opera is filled with melodramatic moments, crazy characters, and several pronouncements of love. So what happens when all this occurs in the real world?
Falls Church High School’s production of Ken Ludwig’s’ “Lend Me a Tenor” Saturday night told the story of a financially desperate opera company, who call in renowned opera sensation, Tito Merelli (Alex Rock) to put on an immediate hit. Unfortunately, even before the star leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel. Chaos ensues when Merelli’s wife, Maria (Erin Maines), who has mistaken an autograph-seeker hidden in his closet for a secret lover, leaves him a letter stating her desire for a divorce. After an overdose of tranquilizers leaves everyone thinking the star is dead, the general manager’s assistant, Max (Ian Mills), dons the blackface required for Othello, and performs the opera for him. What follows is a chain-reaction of mistaken identity, plot twists, double entendres, innuendoes, and constant entrances and exits through many doors.
The Falls Church High School production was grounded by the fast-paced tempo of an intricate script. With clever use of the six-door set, the actors used aspects of physical comedy to great advantage. Every member of the eight person cast understood the complexity between each of the characters, making for some entertaining dramatic irony.
Some standout performers include that of Ian Mills as Max. Although his character was rather shy, his stage presence was strong, and he truly carried the show. It was clear that he understood the dynamics of such a fast-paced show. Always spot on with his facial expressions, he was a true delight to watch. Contrasting his shy character was the portrayal of Tito by Alex Rock. Rock’s subtle yet obvious arrogance of a world class opera star constantly kept the audience chuckling. His interpretation of the cross-cultural misunderstandings experienced by Tito was nothing short of genius.
Another character who stole the show was that of the Bellhop, played by Ayinde Bray, transforming one of the smaller parts in the play into a hilarious role. His objectives were always clear, and by the end of evening, Bray had the entire audience rooting for him to receive his wish, that of meeting Tito Merelli.
A well constructed, two room, six door set, designed by Alex Doak and Robert Petersen, helped transform Falls Church’s auditorium into a 1934 Cleveland hotel suite. Although the set was simple, the attention to detail was evident. Split stage lighting, designed by Michael Clingaman and Robert Petersen was effective in directing the audience’s attention to the action in both rooms. The several sound effects used were executed well by Cortland Jacoby.
“Lend Me a Tenor” is an exciting adventure full of many comical characters, and the Falls Church cast made for an interesting performance. While the production sometimes lacked focus, creative direction and standout performances brought the show together into a hilarious and entertaining production.
• Holly Kelly is a student at Oakton High School and a member of the Cappies Critics and Awards program.