THEATER REVIEW: “Lend Me A Tenor” is rip-roaring fun at North Coast Rep

A temperamental Italian opera singer and his voluble but long-suffering wife, a scheming soprano, a romantically stalled couple and the general manager of the fictional Cleveland Grand Opera scamper through Ken Ludwig's high-energy goofball farce “Lend Me A Tenor,” playing through Oct. 9 at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Matthew Wiener directs.

It's opening night of Verdi's “Otello” with superstar tenor Tito Merelli ("Il Stupendo"), and though the ladies are all a-twitter, manager Saunders (Ted Barton) is just this side of apoplectic. Tito’s name sold those tickets, but he hasn't arrived. This could be a disaster.

Meanwhile, Saunders' factotum Max (Christopher M. Williams) is having trouble getting Saunders' pretty daughter Maggie (Courtney Corey) to say "yes"; she insists she wants to have "a fling" before settling down.

Everybody wants a piece of Tito (Bernard X. Kopsho). Maggie’s starry-eyed at the prospect of seeing again the star she'd met a few years back. Sexy soprano Diana (Jacque Wilke) hopes to use Tito's influence as a springboard to the Met; opera board chair Julia (Jill Drexler) has designs on a little of Tito's time. Even the wannabe singer bellhop (Albert Park) wants to get in on the act.

But when the man finally does show up, all he wants is a nap.

An hour, an ambiguous note from wife Maria (Jessica John) and an accidental sleeping pill overdose later, Il Stupendo is splayed out on the bed – possibly even dead – and amateur tenor Max will don the Moor's costume and sing the role.

It’s a perfect setup for farce, and Wiener and his cast make the most of its comic possibilities. I’d like to move into Marty Burnett’s stunning set – all white, chrome and mirrors – and have Drexler’s gorgeous gray-to-silver dress, charmingly described by Saunders as looking “like the Chrysler building.”

The cast gets kudos not just for talent (which is considerable), but also for their ability to perform this perpetual-motion script at top speed without crashing into each other or the set – no mean feat on this small stage, I assure you. And if that’s not enough, watch for the coda, when they replay the whole plot in about two minutes.

Congratulations to Wiener for his brilliant direction of this gloriously silly train wreck of a play, and to his superb ensemble cast with nary a weak link.

The details

“Lend Me A Tenor” plays through Oct. 9 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.

Wednesday and Sunday at 7 pm; Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (858) 481-1055 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.