Tito Merelli and the rest of the zany characters of Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me A Tenor” returned to the Players stage last week. Long ago in the footnotes of the Players, an artistic decision was made to not remount a play unless 15 or 20 years had passed. This tradition has been carried forth by Artistic Director Greg Vinkler when he plans the season.
“Lend Me A Tenor” made its Players debut in 1991 with Robert Thompson, Ron Relic, Fred Zimmerman, Amy McKenzie, Jeannette Leahy, James Ottis, Cathy Beiber and Alexandra Cortese. With that production, Greg Vinkler, now Artistic Director, made his directorial debut at the Players.
The 2015 cast includes a mix of Players veterans and newcomers including Sean Fortunato, Joe Foust, Matt Holzfeind, Katherine Keberlein, Maggie Kettering, Ashley Lanyon, Tim Monsion and Peggy Roeder.
Taking the directing helm for the 2015 production is Linda Fortunato, who performed in “A Real Lulu” earlier this season and has directed Players productions of “And Then There Were None,” “Once a Ponzi Time” and “The Nerd” as well as choreographing “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and “A Little Night Music.”
Prior to opening night, Linda set aside some time to chat with me about “Lend Me A Tenor” and we wanted to share our conversation with readers of this column:
Q. What was your first project with the Players?
A. The first show I performed in was “Crazy for You” in 1996, also by Ken Ludwig.
Q. Is this the first Ken Ludwig script you have directed?
A. No, I directed “The Fox on the Fairway” for the Players in 2011.
Q. What do you like about directing/working at Peninsula Players?
A. Peninsula Players is a company where we have the privilege of living and working together. The sense of collaboration and support among director, actor, management and designer is truly special.
Q. What are some forthcoming projects?
A. My next two projects are at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana. I will be choreographing “Spamalot” and directing “A Christmas Story.” I also return to teaching at Columbia College Chicago in September
Q. What do you like about Ludwig’s comedies?
A. Ludwig crafts comedies so beautifully. His comedy lies both in situation and language to create an evening of great laughs with a really fun story.
Q. What is at the core of “Lend Me A Tenor?”
A. What happens when a highly anticipated event does not go as planned? To what lengths (what comic lengths) will people go to deal with a crisis?
Q. Was there any special training involved for the cast of “Lend Me A Tenor?”
A. Matt and Sean are both singers. In this process they have worked with Matt Deitchman, a Chicago-based actor and music director who is in the company at Door Shakespeare. As vocal coach, Matt worked with our actors to learn the music in the show and achieve the opera style.
Q. What is exciting for you in rehearsal?
A. This is such a funny play with a great group of actors. It is exciting each day to explore the story and these characters. We all get excited as we discover the comedy. There have been a lot of fun “a-ha” moments.
Those “a-ha” moments have made it to the stage and since opening night, raucous laughter has been bursting from audiences as well an appreciative round of applause for Sean and Matt’s duet. “Lend Me A Tenor” is set in the opera world and opera fans of 1934 Cleveland are highly anticipating the special appearance of superstar Tito Merelli, played robustly by Sean. Max, portrayed by Matt with hapless naivety, is left at the hotel to assist Tito. Chaos breaks out when Tito inadvertently passes out before opening curtain.
Tito/Sean gives Max/Matt a voice lesson which turns into a treat for the audience – a performance of the duet between Don Carlo and his friend Rodrigo from Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” It is a great pleasure to hear the sounds of their voices magnificently filling the all-weather pavilion.
If you appreciate opera, Peninsula Music Festival sopranos Kathy Pyeatt and Danielle Buonaiuto will conduct a pre-show seminar Thursday, August 13 at 6:30 p.m. They will speak about the path that led them to opera and their lives as professional opera singers. Tickets to that evening’s performance of “Lend Me A Tenor” are available and admission to the pre-show seminar is free.
If you enjoyed “The Games’ Afoot” or “The Fox on the Fairway” you will love Ludwig’s first award-winning comedy, “Lend Me A Tenor.” Join us by the bay and help us continue to celebrate 80 seasons. Come early, enjoy a beverage from the Luna Bar, relax under the canopy of the cedar forest or take in the setting sun before partaking in the hilarity of “Lend Me a Tenor;” or John Patrick Shanley’s quirky Irish love story “Outside Mullingar” or Dan Goggin’s musical comedy “Nunsense.”
For tickets or more information on our pre-show seminar or backstage tours visit www.peinsulaplayers.com or phone the Box Office at 920-868-3287. I look forward to seeing you by the bay this season, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!