[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]
Having acted in local theater before, I know it’s rare when a performance goes off without a single hitch. That’s why I was so impressed with the Chanticleers’ flawless performance of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Chanticleers have been performing community theater in Castro Valley, California for 62 years. Tony Award-winning Lend Me a Tenor debuted on Broadway 22 years ago. That they finally got together is a wonderful treat for the audience.
This is a high energy comedy. Two side-by-side rooms provide a double set for parallel action. Within those two rooms are six doors, which of course present multiple possibilities for entrances and exits that keep this comedy of errors, and errors, and more errors, fast-paced, lively, and hysterical, a tribute to the directing of Sue Ellen Nelsen.
This cast had not a weak link anywhere. Everyone was on cue and over-the-top. With parallel sets, there was no wasted stage time for anyone either. If the focus was on one room, the actors next door would still be moving, mugging, gesturing. The audience had to watch every part of the stage to catch all the character nuances of this rich performance.
In this play, Max-well-played by Jeffrey Morrill–is an assistant, apparently not the leading man. Well-cast as the diametric opposite of an Italian opera superstar, Max expands the breadth of his role impressively as the play proceeds. To start, he is a toady, panicky, his stressed-out voice squawking into falsetto at every downturn of events. As the play moves on though, he reveals a marvelous operatic voice, plus great knowledge of the opera in question, Otello, and the stage presence to pull off an amazing charade. This allows the subsequent confusion that carries the second act, with him growing into leading man stature, and getting the girl at the end.
In short, if you’re ever in Castro Valley, California, check out Chanticleers Community Theater-small, intimate, unpretentious– and see what excellent show they’re running then. If you’re ever in need of a belly-laugh, find a theater playing Lend Me A Tenor. You won’t be disappointed either way.
Bruce Roberts is a poet and ongoing contributor to Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Roberts may be reached by at firstname.lastname@example.org.