Lend Me A Tenor
Stage Coach Players of DeKalb opens its 73rd Summer season with the riotous comedy, Lend Me A Tenor, from Ken Ludwig. Originally produced by Stage Coach in 1994, Lend Me A Tenor tells the story how the world famous tenor, Tito Merelli will perform for one night in the opera “Otello” as the main character at the Cleveland Opera House. But as the best comedies go, things start on the wrong foot, careen out of control and laughter ensues. Merelli and his jealous wife arrive late leading to mishaps, mistaken identities and mix-ups which snowball leading to an hysterical climax.
The production is directed by Bernie Schuneman (director of last season’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor among others) and Jan Booth whose directing debut was 2016’s black box production Cradle and All. The cast features familiar Stage Coach performers, including Greg Anderson (Guys and Dolls), Steve Challgren (Play On!), Barb McCaskey (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Ryan Morton (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Paula Tsiagalis (Young Frankenstein). Sarah Romero (Harvey), Blythe Schwaller ($38,000 For a Friendly Face) and Steve Sturm (Lend Me A Tenor – 1994) round out the talented cast.
In their journey to make audiences double over with laughter, comedies can elicit laughter from the cast and crew during the rehearsal process. Schuneman has directed quite a few farces in his years at Stage Coach including audience favorite, Noises Off!, in 2005. Directing that type of fast paced comedy, Schuneman said it’s good to laugh throughout the rehearsal process, which can take two months of your life, adding that that laughter can also be a little difficult. “One of the hardest things is to get the actors over laughing at every joke every night. They have to be able to deliver some of the most absurd lines with a totally straight face or the play doesn’t work.” Having been in the audience during his productions, it’s worth noting that Schuneman and his casts are able to accomplish that, allowing the audience to enjoy the humor by opening night.
But jokes in and of themselves are not all that make good comedies funny. The actors must work together to become a cohesive group and part of that is building believable characters. “The first thing I always do when fleshing out a character is to identify what makes them tick, how are they similar as well as just similar to the audience,” said cast member Paula Tsiagalis. “Maria is first and foremost a proud Italian woman, she is very passionate. She loves her husband and worries that she is losing her desirability. All women can relate in some degree to these issues. Then the fun begins.”