Homestead Theatre’s Lend Me A Tenor

Homestead Theatre’s Lend Me A Tenor

Thomas Hill, Website Manager

After being canceled last year due to everyone’s favorite coronavirus pandemic, Homestead’s fall play has made its magnificent return. And let me say, having personally seen this marvelous masterpiece of ironic comedy, it was phenomenal. If you weren’t able to make it to the play, I honestly pity your loss. The actors were completely in character, from perfect accents to hilarious mannerisms. The set was absolutely perfect for the play, with plenty of doors for the actors to display their comedic genius, and the play itself was written with the best dramatic irony I’ve ever seen. And yes, I know that no one from Homestead wrote the play, but the execution of the dramatic irony was terrific. I honestly don’t think I stopped laughing during the entire experience.

For those of you who missed it (and those of you who’ve forgotten), Lend Me a Tenor is the story of what goes on behind the scenes of an opera. It opens with the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, Michael Saunders, waiting at the hotel for the star of the opera, Tito Merelli to arrive from Italy. His assistant Max and his daughter Maggie are also there (those two sometimes date, by the way). It’s important to note that Maggie is very attracted to Tito and wants to have a “fling” with him, if you know what I mean. When Tito arrives with his wife Maria, they are fighting because Tito likes to flirt with other women. Needless to say, everything is set up for chaos (especially since Maggie happens to be hiding in Tito’s closet).

The hilarity continues as Maria finds Maggie in the closet and decides to leave Tito, leaving a note behind. Before leaving, however, she has already given Tito his sleeping pills, something Max is unaware of when he tricks Tito into drinking some crushed-up sleeping pills. Tito, now friendly with Max thanks to the wine, gives him a singing lesson. Then, Tito goes to bed- and doesn’t wake up because of the sleeping pills. Max finds the note Maria left and assumes it’s a suicide note. Saunders arrives and the pair think Tito is dead. Saunders convinces Max to get into costume and fill in for Tito and the two leave for the theater. As soon as they leave, Tito wakes up.

This leads into the second act, which opens after the opera. Max was very successful in his performance, but there is a madman dressed up in costume on the run from the police. This madman is none other than Toto, who returns to the hotel room. This leads to a number of crazy incidents where Max and Tito are constantly trading places and being mixed up. The madness culminates as Maggie and Diana, the Cleveland Opera’s soprano, both attempt to seduce Tito at the same time and have “flings” with the two simultaneously (because, of course, there are two Titos in play). In the end, Maria returns and all the characters end up in the same place at once. Max manages to quickly change and the ruse remains undiscovered. While all these shenanigans are going on, Julia, the elderly chairwoman of the Cleveland Opera, is also trying to seduce Tito (a little creepy, I know) and the bellhop is trying to get Tito’s picture and autograph.

The play ends romantically, as Maggie realizes that Max was the one she “flinged” with and the one who performed at the opera that night. They kiss and the play ends. Once again, the irony in this play was en pointe and the show’s comedy was ingenious. Now, let’s dig into what the cast thought about the play in some behind-the-scenes interview questions!

 

What is your funniest memory from the play?

Cassandra: Our tech people probably hate it, but I think it’s hilarious every time one of the doorknobs falls off the doors during a run. (It happens a lot, and it’s usually Michael/Saunders’ fault for slamming a door too hard.)

Rachel: Some of my funniest memories came from the downtime during rehearsals. Many of us would goof off while we had 5-10 minute breaks which would often result in one of us rolling on the ground laughing and plenty of photos and videos to look back on.

Ren: After Parker and Rachel’s first run of their kiss in Act 1 Scene 2– we were all watching from our spots backstage– Rachel threw herself to the floor in embarrassment. Most of the kisses were hilarious: Alex breaking his neck against the back of the couch, Parker lifting his leg oddly every time he had a kiss with Cassie, Rachel throwing herself to the floor. Also, the Pagliacci (pah-lee-ah-chee) makeup made Parker and Alex look like the joker; there were a lot of “society” jokes backstage.

Catherine: The cast likes to poke fun at Parker about how every time he kisses someone, he lifts his leg either behind him or out to the side.

 

What was your favorite part about being in the play?

Catherine: My favorite part of being in the show is that I know everyone. This is my first speaking role in an HHS production and it has been made immensely easier by being able to interact with people I’ve been friends with for as long as 5th grade.

Alejandro: My favorite part about being in the play is the fun costumes, fun accents, and the good times I have with the rest of the cast.

Parker: My favorite part has been acting with old and new friends.

Cassandra: We only have five weeks to put this together, and we still managed to become a family in such a short time. I love these guys a lot.

Ren: The opening night was magical. It was as if the stage came to life; everyone (including myself!) improved drastically out of the blue, connecting with their characters and role. It was 10 times better than any of our rehearsals.

 

Any embarrassing moments?

Alejandro: There have been a few embarrassing moments during the rehearsals and the first few kisses on stage were a bit awkward but everything definitely got easier over time.

Parker: Forgetting a line ten seconds into the show…that was rough.

Rachel: While all cast members have had multiple embarrassing moments, I’d say my worst was the first time I had to practice the kiss I have with Tito (Alex) I ended up getting practically bitten by my co-star!

Cassandra: Me getting a door slammed open in my face (I won’t name names), which led to me tripping on my gown and falling hard on my hands and knees. My face turned bright red in about 0.5 seconds.

Catherine: My character, Julia, has to get very close and personal with the opera singer, Tito, played by one of my closest friends from back in middle school, Alejandro. It’s easier than being close with a stranger, so I’m very blessed.

 

How do you balance schoolwork and preparation for the play?

Cassandra: … you don’t.

Rachel: Quite honestly I don’t! I struggle with the balance because in my mind, my top priority at the moment is the play and schoolwork gets done whenever I have free time in the day that isn’t devoted to the play.

Ren: Personally? I don’t. When overwhelmed, I tend to shut down and only focus on what is Required Right Then. When I’m in a show, it’s lazer focus on only that. I feel bad for my teachers, as if I’m letting them down, but there’s not much I can do to make it up to them at this point in the semester.

 

What was something improvised/thrown in on the spot?

Rachel: For my character (Diana) and the character Max (Parker), something my director threw in after any scene I have with Max is that once I have exited the scene, Max has to do a shiver out to the audience as if he was severely uncomfortable with what just went down between our characters.

Parker: We’ve kept mostly faithful to the script, but we did add some words to Max and Tito’s vocal warmup to make it funnier.

Cassandra: Today during our final rehearsal, Parker/Max missed his cue to come onstage by about 30 seconds. We wrote in roughly half of a new scene by ourselves on the spot to stall for time.

Ren: Not really improvised, but on opening night, Alex’s costume pants got stuck in the door during an entrance and he had to double back to fix it. The audience loved it, they lost their minds. It was an accident, but it ended up being a crowd favorite of the evening.