Theater Preview | Comedy ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ showcases freshmen talent

Going to the opera is always an event, but never quite like in Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” (1986), Pen, Paint and Pretzel’s (3Ps) first-year show. “Lend Me a Tenor” is a story of much ado about what ultimately amounts to nothing, but the distance between the beginning and the end is not so much the basis of the show as is the journey from point A to point (again) A.

This tale of mistaken identities, passion and egos within the realm of opera could be just like any other drama, if not for Max (freshman Peter Secrest) and his desire to impress his maybe-not-so-soon-to-be father-in-law, Saunders (freshman Yuval Ben-Hayun).

“I think it’s different in the scheme of this season because the two major [productions] — the Torn Ticket major, which is ‘Secret Garden,’ and the 3Ps major, which is ‘Eurydice,’ — are both more on the dramatic side,” director Alex Kaufman, a senior who is also the executive new media editor of the Daily, said. “In the context of these two shows, I think this gives the community a much-needed laugh and break from the drama.”

Every member of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company is nervous when Tito Merelli (freshman Daniel Camilletti), the famed operatic tenor, fails to arrive for his big performance. However, his eventual arrival does little to calm the frenetic feeling of the play. After a rather unfortunate series of events, Tito becomes incapacitated, and Max and Saunders have to team up to prevent utter catastrophe. Yet instead of solving the problem, they cause a plethora of other crises. The chaos created by these two characters builds to the point that it seems as if all the lies they have told are about to come crashing down on them.

Besides Kaufman and sophomore Rose Iorillo, the show’s stage manager, the cast and crew of “Lend Me a Tenor” is composed entirely of freshmen. Freshman Rachel Canowitz, who plays Julia, called the experience of working with peers intense, yet organic and collaborative. Fellow cast member Ana Baustin, who plays Tito’s fiery wife, Maria, agreed. She explained that even though working with peers can at times feel odd or different, her involvement in “Lend Me A Tenor” has been rewarding and productive.

Although “Lend Me a Tenor” is unabashedly a farce, there are many elements of considerable substance. For example, Maggie (freshman Blair Nodelman), Max’s sort-of fianc?, struggles to reconcile her love for Max with her desire to be more “free.” At the same time, Max is slowly learning to be more than what the people in his life want him to be.

Character development aside, parts of this staging of “Lend Me a Tenor” will likely be reminiscent of Warner Bros.’ “Looney Tunes” (1930-1969) as the actors run in and out of the Balch Arena Theater’s many entrances, parade around in various stages of dress and un-dress and consume an alarmingly large amount of what is clearly wax fruit. This ever-changing, dynamic energy is always present, with one moment calm and the next quickly spiraling out of control. Crescendo and diminuendo are not exactly the fortes of this play — as a result there is hardly a dull moment.

The audience is guaranteed a good laugh from “Lend Me a Tenor,” whether from its dramatic divas, confident Casanovas or its ability to keep finding new troubles for its characters. While the show ends at a point very similar to how it began, somehow this conclusion feels fitting, as if everything is as it should be.

“I have had fun with it in every way,” Kaufman said. “And so should the audience.”

“Lend Me a Tenor” will play tonight in Balch Arena Theater, with shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are free, with a suggested donation of $5 at the door.