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17:54 | 24th March 2017

Reviews: Live Shows

Mon 20 Jun, 2011
By Robert Ingham


the moment it becomes a bedroom farce the show is given a boost and has the audience in fits of laughter

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Lend Me A Tenor - Theatre Review

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Lend Me A Tenor is a perfectly harmless and acceptable musical set in the world of opera and tells the tale of love, hearts’ desires and mistaken identity. It has everything that should make it a great musical – comedy, dancing, good numbers, strong performances and a great set. So it is disappointing that it isn’t a great musical. It’s good, it must be said, but could have been so much more.



It is 1934, Cleveland, USA and the Grand Opera House awaits the arrival of Tito Merelli (Michael Matus), the most famous tenor in the world who is singing the lead role in Otello. He is running late, much to the horror of the Opera House’s Executive Director Henry Saunders (Matthew Kelly). Henry’s daughter, Maggie (Cassidy Janson), is the only person there who has met Tito before and is completely infatuated with him, something her meek fiancé Max (Damian Humbley) isn’t too happy about.

However, when Tito becomes incapacitated, Henry pulls Max in to play the role of Otello, ordering him to pretend to be Tito. The stage is then set for a comedy of errors and farce, with the action flipping from one room to another.

It all sounds so promising. And it does deliver. The set is ingenious and is used to maximum effect with walls sliding, unfolding and flying in. But it is very, very purple. All the bell-boys and maids are dressed in lilac and it becomes quite an assault on the eyes. I personally found the first 15 minutes to be dreadful. Setting the scene can sometimes be the most laborious part of any show but here the songs, apart from Maggie’s “Fling”, fail to make an impact until the action moves from the Hotel to the Penthouse Suite where Tito and wife Maria (Joanna Riding) begin arguing. From that moment to the interval it is thoroughly enjoyable, with the show’s anthem “Be Yourself” (surely to become a staple audition choice) standing out, even if it does feel Disney-fied.

The actors give solid performances but special nods go to Damian Humbley, whose meekness and transformation is spot on. He sings “Be Yourself”, belting out the high notes and following it with the beautifully understated “Before You Know It”. Cassidy Janson is a wonderful Maggie, torn between her love for Max and lust for Tito.

Joanna Riding was meant to play Tito’s wife Maria. Unfortunately she was unwell so her understudy Jemma Alexander took the role and played it fantastically with faultless voice and movement.

Lend Me A Tenor is in the vein of Anything Goes and Crazy For You, but ultimately falls somewhere in between. It’s as if the writers, who were asked to update the original stage play of the same name, didn’t want comparisons with other musicals of the same ilk, but it suffers as a result. The ensemble is seriously underused, coming across as surplus rather than required. Furthermore, this is a completely original musical and yet it seems as if it’s been playing for years.

Matthew Kelly has great comedic prowess, gurning his way through the script. Sophie-Louise Dann is outstanding as Prima Donna Diana and has the show-stealing “May I Have A Moment”. However the title song falls flatter than a tossed pancake and is completely thrown away with useless lyrics such as “lend me a tenor, lend me your love”. Cringe worthy. Yet the moment it becomes a bedroom farce the show is given a boost and has the audience in fits of laughter.

There is nothing particularly wrong with the show. It will have a good run but it won’t set theatreland on fire. It will however see its performers in good stead for future roles.

On the whole, 3 out of 5 stars. If you go in expecting something brilliant, you will leave feeling slightly disappointed.

Lend Me A Tenor is on at the Gielgud Theatre right now. www.tenorthemusical.co.uk


 

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