Lend Me A Tenor: Funniest show of the year!

Lend Me A Tenor
Mayfield Dinner Theatre,
16615-109 Ave. (Doubletree by Hilton West Edmonton)

Tickets: mayfieldtheatre.ca

February 5 – March 31, 2019

Review by  GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com

For reasons known only to the deeper realms of our collective psyches, zany theatrical comedies seem to be the perfect ticket to keep one’s spirits up during the relentless three-month grind that is our deep Canadian prairie winter.

Which is why the selection (and execution) of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me A Tenor is inspirational, the perfect choice by Mayfield Dinner Theatre Artistic Director Van Wilmott for the late-winter cycle of the dinner theatre’s 2018/19 season.

A bellyful of uproarious laughs, on top of the dinner theatre’s famous roast beef, well-prepared potatoes, parsnips and carrots, Caesar salad  and too-many dessert pastries; Lend Me A Tenor is a perfect tonic with which to head out, once more dear friends, into the frozen breach.

The show, written by prolific Broadway playwright Ludwig, is truly at the top of the comedic/farce genre – better, for my money, than Neil Simon’s classics, or even Michael Frayne’s farcical classic, Noises Off.

Plot-wise, Lend Me A Tenor concerns a temperamental, women-loving Italian opera star, a bullying producer, a cuckolded wive, mistaken identities, fake deaths and, by show’s end, the meek inheriting the earth.  

Lend Me A Tenor trumps Noises Off, because its revolving-door antics are not pivotal to the show, but rather an embellishment to the hilarious script and a  tightly structured plot where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, stereotype is gleefully heaped upon stereotype without a glance at political correctness … and, of course,  in the end everybody lives happily ever after.

The characters are written as broadly as possible. An all-star cast of Edmonton comedic actors are set loose by director Dave Horak  to chew up as much scenery as possible.

I haven’t seen veteran Jeff Haslam have as much fun with a script since his cameo turn as the dentist in the Citadel’s Little Shop of Horrors, and that was 19 years ago! 

Stephanie Wolfe is a master of thick comedic European accents and she goes hilariously overboard as the forever-jilted wife of the forever-philandering Italian opera star Tito.

Vance Avery, as the cartoonish – think Captain Hook meets Wile E. Coyote – Tito is the most delightful surprise of the evening. While Avery hinted at his comic chops in last year’s wonderful Plain Jane Theatre production of Woman On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, this time Avery comes carooming out of the comedy closet as Tito.  

Words can’t come close to imparting the hilarity of Avery’s take on Tito. You really must see the show to grasp the comedic, slap-stick reach of this versatile actor.

 Steven Greenfield as Max and Madelaine Knight as Maggie can’t be quite so outrageous, as their characters are the glue that holds Ken Ludwig’s show together. Suffice it to say they also have their comedic highlights … as do all the rest of the actors in this well-cast show – Nicholas Rose, Maralyn Ryan and Melissa MacPherson.

And a shout-out to back-stage dresser Yvette Martens-Wilchynski, assisting the actors in extraordinary costume changes with seconds to spare.

Kudos to Director Horak for finding, shaping and anchoring this play’s underlying, and very demanding comedic rhythms, especially within the Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s tight rehearsal schedules. It was all there on opening night, and, by the nature of the show, will do nothing but get better with repetition.

Lend Me A Tenor is as good a tonic to the winter blahs as a week on a Mexican seaside!

Okay, ALMOST as good as …