| Apr 24, 2008

Feature Article - April 24, 2008

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Feature Article -April 24, 2008 Lend Me A TenorBy Wilma Kenny

A. Murray & J Roberts.

SHS Dramatic Arts Department surpassed itself last week in its production of Ken Ludwig’s comic farce, "Lend Me A Tenor." In it, a world-famous tenor comes to town and is mistaken for dead just before the performance. The stage manager persuades his assistant, Max, to don costume and makeup, and the audience is none the wiser. Meanwhile the tenor revives, climbs into a spare costume, and confusion mounts as the two men are stalked by the president of the opera guild, a female co-star, the tenor’s wife, the stage manager’s daughter and a starstruck bellhop, each with their own agenda. Director Dan Raponi said his cast of senior students worked on the play for three months, the last four weeks with the full set, so they could fine-tune their timing.

It was everything a good farce should be: an improbable plot full of humour, action, mistaken identities, overblown emotions, zinging one-liners, sexual innuendo and slamming doors. In order for all this to work, the cast has to be able to maintain a breakneck pace with exquisite timing, and deliver their lines with speed, confidence and clarity. To top it off, the actors must make the characters real enough for the audience to care what happens to them.

Waylon Baur as the tenor managed to come across as arrogant, charming and likeable. As his wife, Ana Donifer-Hickie was spirited and impetuous. Both made commanding physical use of the entire stage. In contrast, Tamara Jellema, president of the opera guild, minced and posed her way on and off, using her black-gloved hands to good effect. Adrian Murray as the lovestruck stage assistant aspiring to be a star had the audience with him all the way. His part called for the full gamut of emotions, and he was on stage throughout most of the play. Daniel McLaren had a more difficult role as an older, more one-note character. The scene in which he cajoles Max into going on stage is one of the quieter ones, partly played in pantomime. It was done so well it brought whoops of laughter. Jessica Roberts held her own as the ingenue, popping in and out of hallways and cupboards with finesse. Carley Gribbon was the soprano who wants to get to New York: she delighted the audience with her in-your-face entrance, and straight-faced, sensual delivery of one of the longest double entendre scenes in the play.

Even in a well-balanced cast, there’s often one who sometimes steals the show: in this case it was Curtis Law, as the bell-hop. The audience applauded his snap transition from dreamy-eyed worshipful groupie to scornful superior.

For curtain call, the cast did a breathtaking summary of the entire play in less than a minute, racing at breakneck speed across the stage and in and out of doors like a movie on fast forward.

A few words were lost in the speed of delivery, and the lines on Jellema’s forehead weren’t necessary, but those are minor points, and took nothing away from a production that was, in all ways, excellent.

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