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'Lend Me a Tenor' at Collaborative Theatre

“Lend Me A Tenor,” a bedroom farce with book and lyrics by Peter Sham and music by Brad Carroll is classic Ken Ludwig ridiculousness reimagined as over-the-top musical theater.

The story begins on the biggest night in the history of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. Tito Merilli is a world famous tenor who’s been hired to perform at the theater’s 10th anniversary season opener. Everyone awaits in great anticipation of Merilli’s arrival. The opera company’s executive director Henry Saunders and his personal assistant Max Garber know the event will put the Cleveland Opera on the map.

When Merilli and his volatile wife, Maria, arrive in a flurry of photographers and delirious opera guild ladies, maids and bellhops whisk the singer and his wife to their suite — and the multiple-door-slamming farce is off and running.

“Lend Me a Tenor” previews Thursday, Aug. 16, opens Friday, Aug. 17, and runs through Sept. 16 at Collaborative Theatre Project, 555 Medford Center, Medford. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and matinees are set for 1:30 p.m. Sundays.

Preview tickets are $15. All other tickets are $28, $22 for seniors or $18 for students and can be purchased at ctporegon.com or by calling 541-779-1055. Group tickets are available.

Rick Robinson of Oregon Cabaret Theatre directs the comedic romp, which includes song and dance, including a tap routine performed on suitcases.

“It’s a show I’ve been aware of since its 2007 debut production at Utah Shakespeare Festival,” Robinson says. “The composer, Brad Carroll, is a longtime friend and collaborator of my wife, Valerie Rachelle. The piece is a wonderful mash-up of madcap farce, opera and old-school musical theater. It retains all the story elements of Ken Ludwig’s classic piece, but adds these beautiful, lively musical numbers that give the show scope and a connection to the opera that’s a backdrop to the play. The musical had a great run at Utah Shakes, then a tryout at the Theatre Royal in 2010 and subsequently opened on London’s West End at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011, a production that was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award.

“Carroll directed ‘Tenor’ himself for Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in 2017, and in his production he changed the opera at the heart of the story from Otello to Pagliacci. The conceit is multiple actors in costume and makeup heavy enough to be mistaken for each other,” Robinson says.

“CTP’s production is the Northwest premiere of ‘Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical’ and just the second production to feature this change to Pagliacci. I am thrilled to be at the helm.”

The CTP cast features David King-Gabriel as Merilli, Don Matthews as Saunders, Chris Hamby as Garber, and Lauren Blair, C.J. Reid and Catherine Hansen as the guild ladies. Mia Gaskin plays Maggie, Saunders’ star-struck daughter, who transforms the Cleveland Hotel lobby into a shrine for Merilli. Rose Passione plays Maria.

Also featured are Kristen Calvin as diva Diana Divane, and Erny Rosales as the hapless stage manager, Bernie. Evan Sheets, Ella Rose Schaefer, William Coyne and Lauren Sheets are ensemble players whose roles range from bellhops to paparazzi.

Choreography is by Leah Kolb; musical direction by Jennifer Schloming; set design by Kelsey Garrett; costumes by Susan Aversa-Orrego; and lighting and sound design are by Mike Kunkel.

The show’s opening night gala includes a costume contest and hors d’oeuvres at 6:45 p.m. Awards will be presented for the best gown or costume at intermission.

Wine will be available at the gala, and watercolor paintings by Sharon Wesner will be displayed in the lobby. Wesner’s artistic style is realistic impressionism, with a strong emphasis on color, composition and design.

Rose Passione, left, plays Maria, and David King-Gabriel plays Tito Merilli in Collaborative Theatre Project's "Lend Me a Tenor." Photo by Gerry Katz