Laughter About Song: Just What The Doctor Ordered
You don’t need to have seen playwright Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me A Tenor” in order to thoroughly enjoy his recent “A Comedy of Tenors,” which is now up for a three-week run at the Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue.
“A Comedy of Tenors,” which premiered at the Cleveland Playhouse in 2015, brings back many of the same characters from “Lend Me A Tenor,” called “one of the two great farces by a living writer” by the New York Times at its Broadway debut in 1989.
“A Comedy of Tenors” is quick-witted, fast-paced and quite funny, and it was clear on opening night in Quogue that the veteran actors were having a great time with their roles, under the masterful direction of Diana Marbury.
It was also a sneak peak into the surprisingly good singing chops of some HTC regulars, as the theater company prepares to embark on its first-ever full scale musical production, “Man of La Mancha,” next spring.
Henry Saunders (Terrance Fiore), a bumbling producer whose credentials include formerly serving as the mayor of Cleveland, is organizing a “three tenors”-style concert in a Paris football stadium; with the help of his former assistant-turned-singer Max (Matthew Conlon), who is slated to perform even as his wife (who is also Saunders’ daughter) is about to give birth back in the States.
Edward Brennan stars as Italian tenor Tito Merelli, who is to be joined by Max on stage along with a hastily arranged appearance by a young tenor named Carlo, played by HTC newcomer Connor Antico, who is secretly in love with Tito’s daughter, Mimi (Amanda Griemsmann).
Many problems arise, not the least of which is that Tito actually believes Carlo is in love with his own wife, Maria (Catherine Maloney), not with his daughter, after Tito catches Maria helping Carlo get dressed after catching him engaged in shenanigans with her daughter.
Yes, that’s confusing. It gets more outlandish from there. Buckle up.
Mr. Brennan has his work cut out for him in this play, which requires him to play both the ego-driven aging tenor and a bumbling Venetian bellhop named Beppo, who just happens to share Tito’s vocal ability and likeness, with none of his pretensions. He dives wholeheartedly into both roles.
Ms. Maloney portrays Maria as a tough-talking romantic, a classic Italian woman with classic Italian desires, most importantly for the cohesiveness of her family.
The chemistry of the three tenors (or four if you count Beppo) is palpable, and one of the most memorable moments of this evening is their rousing rendition of “Brindisi,” the drinking song from Verdi’s La Traviata.
I’ve seen both Mr. Conlon and Mr. Brennan in numerous shows at HTC, and never knew they possessed such nice vocal chops. That’s not to say that they would bring down the house at The Met, but that’s part of the charm. This play is a comedy about opera, not an opera about comedy. They pour their hearts into the singing. Why not?
A tempestuous Russian singer and former lover of Tito’s, Tatiana Racon, played with panache by Cesa Pledger, barges into the mix midway into the second act, just to stir up this pot of delicious hijinks and bring it to a boil.
It all just works. Kudos to HTC for a delightful night of new theater.
“A Comedy of Tenors” runs at the Quogue Community Hall from October 25 to November 11 with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7, Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2:30. An additional matinee performance will be offered on Saturday, November 10, prior to the 8 p.m. performance that evening.
Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors, $20 for people under 25 years old and $10 for students. Visit www.hamptontheatre.org or call OvationTix at 1.866.811.4111 for tickets.