Maggie’s Little Theater delivers big laughs with latest show

By Merle Exit

Director Erik Neilssen has a hit on his hands with the hilarious “Lend Me a Tenor” at Maggie’s Little Theater in Middle Village.

You can certainly count on actors Bernie Bosio and Donald Gormanly to deliver the goods when it comes to comedic timing. Add in singing those high notes and you get an experience of pure entertainment.

Ken Ludwig’s farce opens on the biggest night in the history of the Cleveland Grand Opera Co.

The world-famous tenor, Tito Merelli, “Il Stupendo,” (Bernie Bosio) is to perform his greatest role, “Otello,” at the 10-year anniversary gala. Henry Saunders (Joe Paciullo), the opera’s executive director, has high hopes that Merelli’s performance will make Cleveland famous. However, at the final dress rehearsal, Merelli is nowhere to be found, Saunders is in a panic, and, along with Max Garber (Donald Goramnly), Saunders’s personal assistant, they scramble to figure out what to do.

Meanwhile, Maggie Saunders (Monica Barczak), Henry’s daughter, is preparing for Merelli’s arrival. Max views her as his fiancé but Maggie says that she needs to first have a fling.

Saunders rushes in and presses Max on an alternate plan. Desperately, Saunders turns to Max for an idea. Max, who fancies himself as something of an opera singer, offers a solution: to sing instead. In the middle of the song, Merelli and his volatile wife, Maria (Shana Aborn), enter. After singing, Saunders and Max are told of the Merelli’s arrival and rush to make them welcome.

It soon becomes clear that Merelli is not in shape to sing. Too many people think he needs to rest and dispense tranquilizers as well as share a glass of wine. Merelli passes out, and when Max tries to rouse him, the singer appears to be lifeless. Max comes to the conclusion that Merelli is dead.

Max and Saunders realize the company stands to lose $50,000 in ticket sales unless it can find a way for the “dead” singer to deliver the performance of his life.

From here on, the play unfolds into a riotous and unpredictable explosion of mistaken identities and renewed love.

Finally, at show’s end, everyone is filled with a sense that they just might get the thing each of them desires, and that the Cleveland Grand Opera Company’s future will be a bright one.

For “Lend Me a Tenor “to work, the cast needs to put forth the perfect timing in this farce. Although Paciullo performed well, I found that this comic form of art was missed several times in terms of the delivery.

The first act dragged a bit, although it might have also been due to the script.

If you Go

“Lend Me a Tenor”

When: Through March 13

Where: Maggie’s Little Theater, St. Margaret Parish Hall, 66-05 79th Place, Middle Village

Cost: $18/adults, $15/seniors

Contact: (917) 579-5389

Website: www.maggieslittletheater.org

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