1. J.D. Daw (as Max) and Molly McCaskill (as Maggie).
photos by John Vecchiola
Lend Me A
the Westchester Broadway Theatre
By Eugene Paul
their 215th production – 215! –Executive producers Bill Stutler and
Bob Funking launch Ken Ludwig’s hilarious, raucous 1989 Tony winning farce, Lend
Me A Tenor, all freshened up with all six swinging doors swinging and
slamming, and, miracle of miracles, with genuinely operatic voices, thanks to
remarkable Joey Sorge and J,D, Daw, the tenors of the craziness that fills the
stage. You could hear the opening night audience laughing all the way to
Yonkers. Ken Ludwig’s outrageous farce has been generating fans and laughter
in sixteen languages and twenty-five countries since it first opened in London
in 1986, winning awards and audiences and don’t we need a laugh or two these
days more than ever. Director Harry Bouvy rightly underscores his not exactly
light handed approach with a brightly willing company.
really have to appreciate the Westchester Broadway Theatre program cover: it’s
a sly homage to the original London program design and worth a giggle or two.
Next appreciation: the references in the title joke: “Lend me a tenner” was a
common enough request back in 1934, the year Ludwig sets his hijinks going,
meaning, “Lend me a ten shilling note”. Or half an English pound note. About $2.50.
Which could buy you a very nice theatre seat back then. Today, add zeros. Not
here, in Westchester, of course, where you get the whole package, free parking,
updated dinner service, updated menus – we are after all, the Westchester
Broadway DINNER Theatre.
Tregoney Shepherd (as Julia), Sam Seferian (as the Bellhop),
Philip Hoffman (as Saunders), and Molly McCaskill (as Maggie).
to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1934, where the Cleveland Grand Opera Company has
managed to corral Tito Merelli (wonderful Joey Sorge) “Il Stupendo”, the
hottest, sexiest tenor in the world, for a single performance of his famous
“Pagliacci”, tragic, comic clown. For general manager Saunders, (wildly excited
Philip Hoffman) it’s his greatest coup, and the house is sold out. Saunders
paces the hotel suite , the posh sitting room, the plumped up bedroom, trailed
by his assistant, shy, frustrated singer Max (splendid J. D. Daw) and his
daughter, Maggie (lovely Molly McCaskill) who are as excited and dithery as he.
Maybe more. Everything must be perfect for Signor
and his wife, Maria (combatively good Kathy Voytko).
Daw (as Max) and Joey Sorge (as Tito).
explodes, when she finds Maggie hiding in the bedroom coat closet. Tito is a
notorious womanizer. Maria is a notorious screamer. Maggie is an overwhelmed
fan. And beautiful. And young. Never mind that her boyfriend, Max, and her
father, Mr. Saunders, are in the other room, she wants – an autograph? Maria
knows what kind of autograph she wants. She knows what kind of autographs Tito
loves to offer.
do not get simpler. Diana (slinky Hannah Jane McMurray), soprano on the make,
wants Tito’s ministrations preparing for the performance. Julia (fine Tregoney
Sheperd) Chairman of the Opera Guild , wants Tito’s attentions to some further
details. Even the Bellman (neat Sam Seferian) is a Tito fan. And General
Manager of the Cleveland Opera Company Saunders would be tearing his hair out
if he had any. Oh, yes, the doors are slamming. Which is not an appropriate
time for Tito to give Max a lesson in how to relax your voice in preparation
for performance. (Hilarious.)
a shouting match between Tito and his Maria leads to her leaving him. For
good. Including a goodbye note which can be and is mistaken for a suicide note.
Coupled with Tito’s melodramatic despondency, and sleeping pills lead to
zonking out. Which leads to Max finding him, totally plotzed dead? Dead? He
can’t be. They have a sold out audience. This is the peak of Mr. Saunders’
career. What to do? Desperation! Saunders inveigles terrified Max into the
Pagliacci clown outfit. Max is going to go on . No one will ever know! Nobody
is allowed into the bedroom where the dead Tito still lies. Max gets into the
clown outfit, clown hair, clown whiteface, clown grimace. And goes to perform.
And Tito sits up. Blackout, Act One.
course, there’s Act Two. Of course there are two Pagliaccis. Of course,
there’s mistaken identities. And -- slamming doors. But it’s the double
seduction scene in which two Pagliaccis get it on with two delighted beauties
that gilds the lily you might say. The funniest moment in the whole show is
two Pagliaccis hoisting up their post coitus britches simultaneously, one in
the sitting room, one in the bedroom. Bravo, director Bouvy! And
congratulations to costume designer Keith Nielsen for the dashing costuming
and certainly to set designer to Steve Loftus for them sturdy slamming doors.
Me a Tenor. At
the Westchester Broadway Theatre. Tickets: Dinner and show: $71-$91.
914-592-2222. Thru Jan 26.