Lend Me a Tenor

It feels good to laugh, and Citadel Theatre’s production of the popular farce “Lend Me a Tenor” has everything from chuckles to just plain guffaws.
The little stage in the 150-seat theater on the west campus of Lake Forest High School rocks with the antics of overblown characters who find themselves in bizarre situations. And tapping into the tradition of such British actors as Alec Guinness and Alastair Sim. director Robert D. Estrin adds to the hilarity by using a man as the show’s dowager.

The time is 1934 and the Cleveland Opera is anticipating the arrival of the world-renowned tenor Tito Morelli to sing the title role in Verdi’s “Otello” in its season opener.  He is late and when he does get to the hotel, his overbearing wife Maria in tow, he promptly announces he will skip the rehearsal, take a nap and get to the theater in time for the performance.

Waiting for him is Saunders, the hyperventilating company manager, his star-struck daughter Maggie, her would-be boy friend Max, who is a mild-mannered tenor with operatic ambitions, an opera-singing bellhop, the seductive soprano Diana, and Julia, the dowager patroness of the arts.

The situations are so hilarious that this show  may just have a cast-proof script. Citadel, however, has assembled a merry band that carries off the incredible situations with considerable flair.

Maggie, who nearly swoons as she listens to  Morelli recordings, is played by the lovely Carey Lee Burton, whose smile lights up the stage and handles her silly character with style and finesse.

Eric Zuber is Max, her would-be suitor and aspiring tenor who is scared of his own shadow. As his character is transformed by his encounter with Morelli, Zuber takes us along for a side-splitting ride.

Andrew J. Pond is Morelli and Christine Cummings plays his wife Maria. The pair, two broad Italian stereotypes, feud constantly, but Pond can sing and the duet with Zuber merits applause for both tenors.

The bellhop, played adroitly by Matt Andersen, can also sing and even does a flashy little tap routine to the tune of “Anything Goes.” Susan Steinmeyer is ideal as the flirtatious diva Diana.

The most hilarious character is Julia, the dowager opera board member, played to the hilt by Jeffrey Geddes in drag. The character’s  glittering jewelry and conical crown causes  Saunders to compare her to the Chrysler Building.

Pat Murphy has the time of his life as the overblown Saunders, who is responsible for getting a tenor, any tenor to the theater.

There are all kinds of misunderstandings, between men and women, including one involving the word “professional.” You can only imagine the fun one couple has with that.

“Lend Me a Tenor” runs Thursday through Sunday, closing June 3 at Citadel Theatre, Westleigh and Waukegan Roads, Lake Forest. Free parking. Call 847-735-8554 or visit www.citadeltheatre.org.