Lend Me a Tenor
Written by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Stanley Tucci
Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub, Justin Bartha, Brooke Adams, Mary Catherine Garrison, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Jay Klaitz, Jan Maxwell
Performances began March 12, 2010
Music Box Theater
239 West 45th Street
Twenty years ago, Ken Ludwig's multi-door-slamming Broadway farce Lend Me a Tenor showcased two of the nimblest and funniest farceurs in one show: Victor Garber and Phil Bosco, the latter winning a well-deserved Tony for his breathlessly, physically funny portrayal of Saunders, Cleveland opera impresario, circa 1934, whose gala evening is ruined by the possible death of the great Italian tenor Tito Morelli, whom everyone has paid to see in Verdi's Otello.
Stanley Tucci's current staging, while not quite a door-to-door howler, is no slouch in the energy department thanks to its cohesive comedic cast: Anthony LaPaglia's gregariously hilarious Tito Morelli, Jan Maxwell's boisterously diva-ish Maria Morelli, Jay Klaitz's monstrously needy fanboy/bellhop, Mary Catherine Garrison's squeaky Maggie (Max's girlfriend) and Jennifer Laura Thompson's sultry Diana (the opera's Desdemona).
But it's the main men who, as in 1989, carry the show on their shoulders. Tony Shalhoub doesn't have Bosco's purely effortless stage command, yet he has superb timing and can amusingly move from brash anger to wild desperation in the blink of an eye. The revelation is Justin Bartha, who might even be an improvement on the heretofore indelible Garner: Bartha's Max, a young Woody Allen-ish nebbish, reaches classic comic heights after donning black-face, when he dodges confused (and ravenous) women and a confused (and ravenous) bellhop.
Tucci's frantically-paced production plays out on John Lee Beatty's maze-like hotel-room set, whose quintet of slammable doors accentuates the epic silliness Tenor abounds in. As in the original, the curtain call finds the terrifically able octet giving a delirious re-run of the entire madcap action in two minutes, a sped-up silent-movie cliché that's a perfect cap on a vibrant evening of hilarity.
originally posted on timessquare.com