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'Comedy of Tenors' is a rumpus romp

"A Comedy of Tenors" is a bedroom farce of ridiculous proportions, with three doors slamming and telephones ringing.

It's a confusion of identities that delight and entertain, because there’s no deep drama in Randall Theatre's newest production, directed by Paula Waterbury.

It's Paris in 1936, and the world is aflame for opera -- the romance, the passion, the pain of it all -- because opera is life at its richest and most dramatic. Tito Morelli is the world’s greatest tenor, with women four deep at the door, screaming his name. Or at least they used to. That was last year in Ken Ludwig's "Lend Me a Tenor," performed at the Collaborative Theatre Project.

Today, in “A Comedy of Tenors,” Morelli is a little older, certainly wiser, and his C notes have started to crack. The women don’t crowd the door, and he’s recognized that his wife, Maria, is truly beloved.

But there are many confusions, of course, in Ken Ludwig’s “A Comedy of Tenors,” a welcome and very funny sequel to Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor.” And no worries if opera really isn’t your thing, because those sultry strains are only background, there’s no singing in this Randall Theatre production, just confusion and lots of laughs.

Beppo looks like Tito, except Beppo’s a nobody, a randy ex-gondolier now bellman; Tito mistakes Maria’s earthy, Italian welcome of a potential son-in-law for an affair; another tenor, Carlo, is in love with Tito’s daughter Mimi but is Tito’s sworn enemy, but Mimi is now pregnant with Carlo’s baby and Max, another tenor, is frantic at his first performance, and his first child is due any moment at home in Cleveland. Phew!

Lanny Horn is Tito Morelli and captures that bigger-than-life Italian ego very well as does Maria, his wife, played by Jeanene Christiansen. They both are so ready for insult and so ready for love, their gestures suitably hot-blooded and European. Horn is particularly funny as Beppo, throwing off the formal celebrity of his alter ego, charming and likable, and his guiding principle, his home, Venezia! And his country, Italia!

Max, Mimi, Carlo and Tatiana are played by Nick Walker, Ella Nelson-Mahon, Rhyon Ingalls and Courtney Lane, respectively. Max as Nick is a new tenor and about to be a new father, so he’s anxious and ratcheting up the tension. Nelson-Mahon as Mimi is a darling ingénue, caught in the act of love in more than one respect, with Ingalls as Carlo. And Lane as Tatiana is hilarious in the role of a Russian dominatrix screaming out the name of her lover.

Toni Holley is cast as Henry, typically a male in the role, but Holley is marvelous. Her tight, anxious features, demanding screeches and staccato heels shout impatience. One of the funniest scenes in the play is when Holley as Henry paces the room, waiting and waiting for her tenors, fussing with antimacassars and flowers until finally she picks up a pillow, buries her face into it and screams out loud in frustration.

Another scene that shows the time and care of the director, Paula Waterbury, is an ensemble fight scene choreographed to perfection in slow motion and paced by slowly blinking lights. Well done, all.

Elliot Anderson and Nick Hewitt’s set design is as always solid, important in a bedroom farce because the house can come down with all the door slamming. At the Randall, there’s no fear of that given the expert design and carpentry of this talented duo.

There’s not a bad seat in the house in Randall Theatre’s new stage at 20 S. Fir St., the risers giving a great view of the stage. Every visit to the Randall’s new space brings improvements and added sophistication, yet the big, soft couches with a bottle of red are the constants for those with the luck of the draw.

“A Comedy of Tenors” continues in the Randall Theatre through March 17, with evening and matinee performances. Tickets range from $18 to $20, with some shows offering pick your price at the door. Tickets are available online at randalltheatre.com and by calling the box office at 541-632-3258.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

“A Comedy of Tenors” continues in the Randall Theatre through March 17, with evening and matinee performances. Tickets range from $18 to $20, with some shows offering pick your price at the door. Tickets are available online at randalltheatre.com and by calling the box office at 541-632-3258.