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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Classic Farce Done Well

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre keeps it light with ‘Lend Me a Tenor’

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Milwaukee Chamber Theatre tightly executes a classic work of light comedy with a production of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor. Rick Pendzich shows considerable comic mastery in the role of Max, the nebbishy assistant who has dreams of performing opera.

The talented and charismatic Steven M. Koehler commands quite a bit of authority onstage as opera singer Tito Merelli. Max has been given the task of looking after the musical legend who is preparing to perform the lead role of Othello for one night in Ohio. In other words, Max has been asked to keep Merelli out of trouble.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a farce if things didn’t go wrong. And since Lend Me a Tenor is a long-lived farce, the twists and turns in the story are quite well constructed. Director C. Michael Wright animates the script, maintaining a catchy comic pacing that doesn’t compromise some of the tenderness of the non-comic moments. The mutual respect between Max and Tito feels genuine in a thoroughly enjoyable Pendzich-Koehler stage dynamic. Complex characterization often gets lost in the fast-moving machinery of the plot, but Wright does a good job of grounding the characters. That being said, this is a light comedy above all else.

There are some particularly bright spots in the rest of the ensemble as well. Drew Brhel is shrewdly jaunty as the beleaguered general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera. Alexandra Bonesho sparkles as an actress aggressively pursuing success. 

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Lend Me A Tenor runs through April 27, at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.