Witnessing the Montclair State University Players’ production of “Lend Me a Tenor” at the Hawk’s Nest Commuter Lounge was an absolute pleasure as it kept the audience roaring and engaged with laughter even at its darkest moments.
There was a literal dark moment where the lights turned off unexpectedly, but the actors continued to project their voices and remained in character.
Within the plot, world-renowned tenor Tito Merelli has signed on to play Otello at a Cleveland opera company in the fall of 1934. He arrives late and through a set of crazy circumstances, passes out after mixing wine with a huge dose of tranquilizers. Believing that the divo is dead, the excitable opera manager Mr. Saunders tapped his hapless assistant Max, who is an aspiring singer. He suits up as the Moor and replaces Merelli. Meanwhile, the tenor’s jealous wife Maria, his ambitious female costar Diana, Max’s young girlfriend Maggie and the flirtatious head of the opera guild Julia are all fighting, sometimes literally, for the star’s attention.
The setting within the commuter lounge was simple yet effective in creating the mood. It consisted of an open space on the floor with rows of chairs for spectators to view from above. The crowd consisted of over 20 people that included parents, children and students. The scene resembled a hotel room in Cleveland, Ohio that featured a dark yellow-colored wall, a mirror, a hazel couch which faced the audience, a bed with a blue and white patterned comforter and pillow, and other pieces of furniture. The same set remained in place throughout the entire performance.
Each of the actors and actresses catered to their assigned character perfectly to make the production successful, hilarious and dramatic. Jerry Harney, who played Max, did exceptionally well with his shrill screams, wonderful voice and energy on the stage.
The actors who provided comedy in “Lend Me a Tenor” included Anthony Chidichimo, who played Mr. Saunders, and Jessica Yhpantides, who played Maria. Yhpantides gave a great performance, even though her appearances were brief. Her energy, dramatic qualities and Italian accent caused many positive and humorous reactions from the crowd. She was incredibly funny and tied the entire performance together.
Collectively, each character had their own unique personality that helped tie into the plot, including Maggie’s character. One of her most memorable qualities was her energy, especially when it came to mentioning Tito Merelli, an “Italian opera singer.”
Known by his fans as Il Stupendo, Merelli portrays a womanizer who still loves his wife Maria. Tito has an insatiable appetite for wine, food and women. His most famous costume is one where he wears a brightly colored blond sparkly wig that is styled to be a bob that hardly goes past his ears. He wears a false yellow mustache with a white collared shirt and sparkly golden strips that run up and down his front and shoulders. For his pants, he insists on wearing black tights.
Maggie is a beautiful, dark-haired woman who has about three costume changes. During her first scene, she was wearing a blue dress with large flowers. Later in the play, she emerged from the main door in a silky yellow gown with pearl white gloves on. As for her third and final costume change, she wore a white undergarment that embodied a small dress.
Following Maggie was her implied significant other Max. His nerdy, shrill-voiced and jittery behavior helped provoke tremendous laughter. Max is an aspiring singer and an opera lover. He seemed to be in love with Maggie, but she did not seem to reciprocate it. Max also has an unlimited amount of energy despite the his look which consists of glasses, a bowtie, plaid shirt, mustard-colored sweater vest and slacks. On top of that, the character of Max, begins to impersonate Tito throughout many scenes of this play. His outfit is the same one Tito wears as described above: A white
Maggie’s father, who goes by the name of Saunders, was present in “Lend Me a Tenor.” Saunders is the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. He is uptight, heavyset and wears glasses and a suit as he takes on an authoritative role as a businessman.
Maria, Tito’s wife, is one of the most passionate and temperamental Italian women you could ever know. She’s suspicious of her husband’s wandering eye and whereabouts with other women. Her thick, loud, Italian accent really catches the audience’s attention, along with her excitable and energetic personality. She wore a long strapless red velvet dress with floral print on the chest. Within another scene, she wore a navy blue dress that reached to the floor.
Everyone, both the cast and crew, did an incredible job with this production.