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'Lend Me a Tenor' shows pace, energy, vague raunchiness

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha Players' adaptation of "Lend Me a Tenor" did well to portray all the qualities of a TV sitcom, where everything goes wrong, but things somehow return to room temperature at the end.

Doors open and slam shut, people chase each other around furniture, a spicy Italian caricature has an extra-marital affair, and a guy pretending to be a spicy Italian caricature has an affair with his own girlfriend.

The show is neurotic, erotic and vaguely psychotic. There's death, booze, prescription drug abuse and one weird moment where a bellhop tries to seduce a man wearing a wig. In other words, it made for an entertaining Friday night.

"Lend Me a Tenor" is set in a Depression-era opera house in Cleveland, where Italian opera star Tito Merelli (Richard Bertolotti) is scheduled to sing at the house's fundraiser.

A chain reaction of disasters sends the festivities into a downward spiral, though, that force the opera house's assistant manager Max (Kevin Pauley) to don blackface and somehow put on a performance that convinces the imaginary audience that he himself is the seasoned Italian tenor.

Merelli hilariously bumbled about the stage, flirting with women who appeared to be at least a dozen years younger, and doing well to create the illusion that he was a high-profile foreigner who knew a thing or two about how to exploit his fame. His accent though, while certainly entertaining, at times sounded like a cocktail of Tony Montana, Borat and Sebulba.

Max and his overlord, the opera boss Saunders (Bob Bird), seemed to start off as normal guys but, by intermission, descended into madness. One apparently does so out of greed, the other perhaps out of a desire to gain favor with the father of his girlfriend, Maggie (Jessica Hypes).

The show has moments that turn a bit PG-13, especially when Maggie and Diana (Erin Murphy) appear in lingerie in an attempt to seduce the man they think is Merelli.

Some of the more subtle bits, because of an awkward movement or an ill-timed emotion, seemed to have been lost on the audience, but overall, the show moved with a good pace and the actors showed energy.

"Lend Me a Tenor" continues Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and also on Feb. 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. at the Kanawha Players Theater at 309 Beauregard St., on the East End.


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