Lend Me A Tenor The Musical unfolds into a riotous and unpredictable explosion of mistaken identities, fulfilled dreams, and renewed love! This brand new musical comedy is based on the Tony award nominated play by Ken Ludwig.
Lend Me A Tenor The Musical boasts a score with a decidedly thirties flair, while frequently paying homage to the world of opera. It was first performed at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in 2007. It moved to London with a two-week out of town tryout at the Theatre Royal in 2010. It opened on London’s West End at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011 and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. The show has had numerous subsequent performances throughout Europe.
Music composer Brad Carroll and Peter Sham (book and lyrics) were in residence at Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2006 when they were commissioned to write a musical. After a lot of kicking around ideas, mostly looking for stories in public domain and a comedy, Sham was struck with the notion of contacting Ken Ludwig and asking for the rights to musicalize his play Lend Me A Tenor. While initially it seemed like a random long-shot of an idea, it actually made perfect sense, Ludwig’s play was one of - if not the - most popular comedies in the country having played in most every regional theatre in the country over the course of two decades. After a brief mulling-over by Ludwig, he granted the rights and Utah Shakes, after seeing a partial script and one workshop, committed it to their following season. The musical created a fair amount of excitement from New York producers who wanted to move the project forward with more workshops and development. It became evident to the writers that it would be more expedient to take it to London, though as it turned out, it still took five years to get it to the next step.
Initially, the musical opened with a big production number with the entire chorus on stage singing “Otello.” Brad Carroll said he’d always thought they were giving it all away before they’d even begun. That was one in a series of changes, tweaks and compression of scenes that the play went through during, and after, its tryout at Theatre Royal Plymouth and then the premiere at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End. “The biggest change we’re making for this production,” said Carroll, “is the opera within the play is no longer Otello, it’s Pagliacci, because of the sensitivity in the world right now regarding ethnic diversity and casting.” In the 230 year tradition of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, the character Othello has been a white man in black face. And that would not be appropriate today. Interesting to note, however, continuing the black face tradition in the play hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for any of the 16 productions of Lend Me A Tenor The Musical that have been staged throughout Europe over the last few years.
The conceit, explained Carroll, is that there has to be some sort of mask to disguise the identities of three men. “In Pagliacci he’s wearing the white mask of the clown as opposed to the ‘black mask’ of the Moor.” Carroll said that the reworking was minimal; involving rewriting just two pieces of music and rewriting about 24 lines of dialogue. “And, I think the overall effect will not be diminished. It might even be funnier, because it’s now three clowns running around!”
It’s the biggest night in the history of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. World-famous tenor, Tito Merelli – “Il Stupendo” – is to perform Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at the 50th anniversary gala season-opener. However, during the final dress rehearsal, Tito is nowhere to be found and Henry Saunders, the opera’s executive director, along with Max Garber, his assistant, are in a panic (“Where The Hell Is Merelli?”). Meanwhile, Maggie Saunders, Henry’s daughter, is making preparations for Tito’s arrival and soon we realize that she has other plans concerning Merelli (“Fling”). Henry rushes in and Max suggests an alternate plan should Tito fail to show (“How ‘Bout Me?”). Finally, Tito and his wife, Maria, arrive (“For The Love Of Opera”). But Tito is in shaky shape to perform. He has a terrible stomachache, and what’s more, is at odds with his wife over his alleged preoccupation with women (“Facciamo L’amor”). Unable to take it any longer, Maria begins composing a “goodbye forever” note to her husband (“The Last Time”). Meanwhile, oblivious in the next room, Max and Tito share an unexpected moment (“Be You’ self”). Soon Tito, groggy after unwittingly ingesting a triple dose of tranquillizers, finds Maria’s note and threatens to kill himself. Max calms his tirade and sings him tenderly to sleep (“Before You Know It”). Later, when Max returns to wake Tito, the tenor is lifeless. Max comes to the horrifying conclusion that Tito is “dead”! Henry hears the news and convinces Max that now he MUST play Pagliacci (“How ‘Bout Me?” Reprise). Soon the room is besieged by the members of the opera company (“Act 1 Finale”). Max, now dressed as Pagliaccio, and a bundle of confusion and doubt, resolves to finish what he’s started and leaves the room triumphantly – as Tito awakes from his stupor.
Act two begins backstage with Max (as Tito) concluding his performance in Pagliacci (“Pagliacci Final Moments”). A triumph, Max receives his due (“Il Stupendo”). Max returns to the penthouse (still in costume) only to find Maggie at the door. Thinking he is Tito, she asks a favor (“Lend Me A Tenor”). Soon Max discovers that Tito has disappeared and exits as the real Tito (dressed as Pagliaccio) enters. Diana surprises Tito and treats him to an impromptu audition (“May I Have A Moment?”). At once the penthouse bursts into an uncontrolled and unpredictable explosion of mistaken identities. Maggie is left in the sitting room with Max, while Henry (also dressed as Pagliaccio) and Diana are left in the bedroom. They begin to make love. Meanwhile, at the gala, Tito is desperately trying to escape (“Il Stupendo” Reprise). In the “after-glow” in the penthouse, Max is left alone to ponder his mistake (“Knowing What I Know”). Finally, the truth is revealed and 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 (“Act 2 Finale”).
Peter Sham is a veteran regional actor, writer, director and educator. In addition to Lend Me A Tenor The Musical, he is the author of the musicals Toyland, It’s a Dog’s Life and Waxworks, and the plays Shakespeare’s Moby Dick, a classical adaptation of Melville’s novel, Killer Kane (with William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist), and A Christmas Carol: On The Air (also with Brad Carroll). As an actor, his work has been seen at such places as the Asolo Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Studio Arena Theatre, Eastside Playhouse, Perry Street Theatre, The Neil Simon Festival and Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, where he’s been a principal member for twelve seasons. Peter holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program. He is head of acting & directing at Southern Utah University, and the 2013 recipient of the Kennedy Center ACTF’s Excellence in Education Award.
Brad Carroll is a recognized regional theatre director, music director and composer whose work has taken him all over the world. In addition to Lend Me A Tenor The Musical, he is the co-creator of the new musical, Christmas Is Here Again, based on the animated feature by Robert Zappia. Other produced works include A Christmas Carol: On The Air (also with Peter Sham) for the Utah Shakespeare Festival; Amelia Lost (librettist) with composer, Larry Delinger; Cio Cio San, a new opera-theatre piece (composer/arranger); Christmas Is…A Musical Memory and Robin Hood. Musical scores composed for dramatic productions - Cyrano De Bergerac, King Lear, As You Like It, Measure For Measure, Death Of A Salesman and To Kill A Mockingbird. He is also a writer, director and musical arranger for Walt Disney Entertainment’s, TokyoDisneySea and is currently Resident Artist/Artistic Associate for PCPA - Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria, CA.