There are many things that could go wrong when you schedule a famous and beloved singer to perform at your opera company for its most anticipated production yet. There could be lighting issues, costumes malfunctions, late performers; the list goes on. But those are manageable, predictable even. Once those obstacles are removed, it’s usually smooth sailing onward to a successful production.
However, in the case of this year’s fall play, Lend Me a Tenor, the story’s situation was anything but under control. The problems kept piling up with increasing absurdity and hilarity, and just when you think the chaos has finally subsided, another unexpected event sends the audience back into enduring fits of laughter.
Set in a 1934 hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio, an anxious Henry Saunders (Darren Valdera), the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, awaits the arrival of the famous Tito Merelli (Rageeb Mahtab), a world-class Italian opera tenor with a penchant for attracting women, much to the dismay of his hot-blooded and jealous wife, Maria (Ally Nizamov).
Saunders walks in on a shaky conversation between his daughter, Maggie Saunders (Maeve Hogan), a huge fan of Tito, and her on-and-off boyfriend Max (Nicholas Svan), an aspiring singer and Henry’s assistant. Though unstable and somewhat one-sided, Maggie and Max’s relationship becomes a central element of the play that is slowly deepened as Max gets dragged into a chaotic scheme which ends up giving him the opportunity he needed to prove his love for Maggie.
The plot in between those events is just as intriguing, as Maggie and Max aren’t the only ones with a dynamic relationship. Charming yet somewhat unfaithful, Tito often angers his paranoid wife with his immense amount of female admirers. Topped with humorous Italian accents, these two characters move the story forward with their passionate dispositions and quarrels.
The Bellhop (David Rosa) adds on to the comic relief of the play as an energetic opera fan on a quest to get Tito’s autograph. He constantly tests Henry’s patience with his rebellious and flippant attitude, and his untimely appearances contribute greatly to the comedic progression of the play.
However, when Maria leaves Tito seemingly forever after a misunderstanding involving closets and a shocked Maggie, Tito attempts to commit suicide but is stopped by a frantic Max who chases him down and gets him to bed, but is unaware of the amount of pills Tito had taken to soothe himself.
When it is finally time for Tito to make his appearance, Max is unable to awaken the opera star and mistakenly believes him to be dead. Henry is furious and comically remarks that Tito should have waited until after the performance to commit suicide, and after many attempts to revive and re-kill the seemingly lifeless tenor for the troubles he has caused so far, Henry devises a plan to disguise Max as Tito in order to pull off the performance that will determine the fate of his career.
An exasperated and nervous Max reluctantly agrees and masquerades as the famous II Stupendo, but further complications arise when Tito miraculously (or perhaps now tragically) awakens, and when Julia (Rosa Sicks), Chairwoman of the Cleveland Opera Guild, and Diana (Zaria Alexander), a seductive soprano, enter the stage along with the reappearances of a determined Maggie and a reformed Maria who is willing to give Tito one last chance.
In a wild and door-slamming chase involving two Titos who have the rest of the cast members scrambling to make sense of the whole situation, the conflict is finally resolved when Max reappears as himself. Tito and Maria leave together, as do the rest of the cast members with the exception of Maggie and Max. Maggie realizes that Max, not Tito, was the one who she was with earlier, and the two affirm their love for one another in a kiss that concludes the play.
The chemistry between the actors truly made the play a success. Each character had moments with stellar connections with the others and impressed the audience with passionate acting. The immense efforts of director Ms. Massie and other crew members were definitely evident in the production as a whole. With the successful end to this play, Tech student have once again proven their versatility beyond the school’s heavy focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.
David Rosa ’17 who played The Bellhop says, “I had a great time doing the play, especially with it being my first time on the Tech stage. As a cast, we all bonded really well together which I think helped a lot with the flow of the play. We had something unique that made us stronger and better together as an ensemble. I can’t imagine doing the play with any other group. There was some pressure on us since the fall school play was dying as the musical is usually the big thing people go to see, and so we really wanted to save it as well as blow the musical out of the water and show people that the fall play could be just as fun. I think we accomplished that pretty well. I also think it’s super sad that we didn’t have more time to perform. The arts are really underappreciated at Tech. Just this year they cut the number of show days for the play and musical by a day. We were supposed to have three days and the musical was supposed to have four. I know that we are a STEM school, but the arts are just as important. They bring creative individuals into our community and work hand in hand with the principles our school holds. We should be a STEAM school and not a STEM one.”
Nicholas Svan ’17 who played Max says, “The play was a wonderful experience, but it wasn’t without hard work. Almost all of us had rehearsals from 3:35 to 5 P.M in the beginning, and then that extended to until 8 P.M. Everyone dedicated so much effort into this play and eventually it all paid off. We had an amazing show and it couldn’t have been without our amazing teacher and director Ms. Massie, and our dedicated stage manager Audrey Kastner!”
Ally Nizamov ’16 who played Maria says, “I can honestly say that in my four years at Tech, being a part of the Lend Me a Tenor production was one of the few occasions in which I truly experienced a sense of belonging. It’s all thanks to the incredibly talented and supportive cast and crew, dedicated stage manager, Audrey Kastner, and especially our charismatic director, Ms. Massie, who encouraged us to get out of the closet (or the bathroom), and taught us how to be vulnerable on stage and truly embody our characters. She started off with a goal: To put the Tech play back on the map. Together, under her wing, we unlocked the door to the audience’s heart and made her goal a reality.”
Zaria Alexander ’17 who played Diana says, “After never really pursuing my passion for acting, I decided to listen to my boyfriend, Justin Mollison, and take a chance. It was the best chance I took. I was received so openly by my crazy cast, my new best friends. Spending every day, 5 hours a day for 3 months, it was inevitable not to build some of the tightest bonds I’ve had. I’ve grown so much as a person working on the play, I’ve even adopted the title Mom 2.0 from making sure everyone is on track. From this experience I’ve had the privilege of gaining a new family, courage and an immense love for being on stage. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
If there’s one lesson you get from Lend Me a Tenor, it’s probably that a lot can happen behind closed doors. Beware of Italian tenors and the trouble that follows.
If you thought that Lend Me a Tenor was great, look forward to Tech’s instrumental and choral concerts which will take place on Wednesday, December 9 and 16. Also keep a lookout for Tech’s spring musical, Little Shop of Horrors.