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Lend Me A Tenor

With tap-dancing bellhops, demanding divas, mistaken identities and questionable Italian accents, Lend me a Tenor is a door-slamming farce set in the gaudy world of hotels and opera houses.


It’s lurid, loud, and despite a few bum notes and several bum jokes, it’s infallibly effervescent entertainment, with several genuinely funny nods to the pretensions of the opera world.

It’s the 1930s, and the Cleveland Grand Opera is about to bring Verdi’s Otello to Ohio. The theatre manager, Henry Saunders (Matthew Kelly) needs a hit to stave off bankruptcy (not to mention his three ex-wives, who run the local Opera Guild), but his star performer, Italian tenor Tito Morelli (Michael Matus) has a bad stomach, a disgruntled wife, Maria (Joanna Riding), and an obsessive fan, Maggie (Cassidy Janson), who also happens to be Henry’s daughter.
When Morelli misses his curtain call, Maggie’s wannabe fiance, the meek and mild Max Garber (Damian Humbley) is roped in as a replacement. Max has big lungs to fill, but he fits the costume, and besides, posing as an Italian stallion might just rekindle Maggie’s interest.

Matthew Kelly is a clumsy, likeable presence, and throws himself into the farce with a surprising physicality. Matus and Humbley both reveal a fine set of pipes, but the best songs, and the best voices, belong to the dames. Joanna Riding’s Maria Morelli is as fierce as any Valkyrie, but Sophie-Louise Dann steals the show as as soprano Diana DiVane, who certainly puts the moan into Desdemona. In an attempt to impress Morelli with a breathless bedroom audition, she belts out a medley of arias that would have Puccini whirling in his coffin; it’s musical humour at its best, and the show’s highlight.

4/5

Gielgud Theatre, London. For details and tickets see here.

Reviewed by Milo Wakelin

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