.The Farce Awakens

‘Lend Me a Tenor’ in Sonoma

Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor, directed by Larry Williams and now playing at Sonoma Arts Live through June 16, is a classic farce where the comedy relies heavily on people opening, closing and passing through doors with laser-like precision while still portraying bumbling silliness.

This production of Tenor (featuring the revised 2019 script that cuts the problematic references to blackface) has eight actors and six doors. On top of all the literal moving parts, this is a Ken Ludwig play. Like all his work, the dialogue is funny, snappy and ruthless in its need for breakneck pacing. Even the premise is wackily over the top.

Renowned tenor Tito Morelli (Michael Coury Murdock) is making his American debut at the Cleveland Opera. Waiting for him at the hotel is Max (Robert Nelson), the wannabe singer and hapless right-hand-man of opera producer Saunders (John Browning). To complicate matters, Max is in love with his boss’ daughter, Maggie (Katie Kelley), who wants to experience a fling (hopefully with Tito). Unknown to Max and Saunders, Tito brings his wife, Maria (Tika Moon).

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Maria is rightfully jealous of Tito’s female admirers and threatens to leave if one more upset occurs. Having her leave would be disastrous for Tito, who cannot live without her singing him to sleep every night. Adding to this already volatile mix is an opera-loving wisecracking bellhop (Kevin Allen), stubborn opera executive Julia (Kim Williams), hyper-sexed star soprano Diana (Tara Roberts), phenobarbital and (fortuitously) two identical Pagliaccio costumes.

If you haven’t guessed where the plot goes from there, I won’t ruin it for you. To be fair, the plot is so convoluted that I couldn’t explain it in this space. Happily, Williams has assembled a seasoned cast of actors who work well as an ensemble and handle the demanding physicality, operatic singing and witty lines with relative ease.

The real stars, however, are the costumes. Allison Sutherland has costumed a diverse cast of body types in period clothing from the 1930s, allowing the actors to perform broad physical comedy while still managing to make everyone look amazing.

While there are some pacing issues, an awkward first couple of scenes and a completely unnecessary panto at the end of the production (which confused an audience that was ready to applaud and head home), overall, this is a solid production that’s well worth the drive to Sonoma.

Sonoma Arts Live presents ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ through June 16 on the Rotary Stage at Andrews Hall in the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $25 -$42. 707-484-4874. sonomaartslive.org.


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