Screwball comedy aims for funnybone


It’s an era of evening dresses and tuxedos, sparkling champagne and even more sparkling tiaras, of romantic opera stars and their enamoured fans. In this world of luxury, chaos is about to ensue, in the style of classic 1930s screwball comedy. The South Okanagan Players bring this hilarious chaos to the stage in Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig. The production is a farce, and definitely not an opera, hitting the stage on May 23 -24 in Osoyoos and May 31-31 in Oliver.

Tito Merelli (played by Nathan Linders) is “Il Stupendo”, the Italian tenor of the title. The imposing singer arrives at his hotel suite, ready to open the Cleveland Opera’s 1934 season starring in Otello. World famous for his stupendous voice, Tito is also famous behind-the-scenes for his way with women, stage door admirers and co-stars alike. He soon attracts Maggie (Tracey Granger), an adoring fan and daughter of the Cleveland Opera’s general manager Saunders (Ted Osborne). Also vying for Tito’s attentions is his ambitious co-star Diana (Robin Stille), who aims to bed the tenor and advance her career in one fell swoop.

The tenor’s plans are put on hold by two immutable forces: a terrible stomach ache, and his hot-tempered wife Maria (Carrie Lyle). Concerned that his performance is in jeopardy, either from illness or conniving women, the fiery Maria orders him to rest. She wants him safely tucked up in bed – alone. In one of the farce’s funniest exchanges, Maria and Tito let their tempers flare: “Take-a you pills!” she shouts. “You wanna pills?” sneers Tito. ”OK. I take-a pills. I take–a four pills.” “Now you-a gonna be sick. You peeg!” “Shaddap!” “Shaddapa you-self!” Gulping down a handful of tranquilizers with wine, Tito passes out cold.

With Tito down for the count, the role of Otello is without a replacement. Opera house manager Saunders is justifiably worried about his sponsors, but has a cunning plan to fool the opening night audience. But is his hapless assistant Max (newcomer John Guiliano), an aspiring (albeit amateur) tenor, up for the challenge? What happens next is a whirlwind of frantic costume changes, mistaken identities, slamming doors, bed-hopping madness, hilarious sight gags, and romance.

Also featured in the cast are David Badger as a sassy singing bellhop, and Louise Szalay as Julia, a regal opera patron.

Lend Me a Tenor marks the directorial debut of Tom Szalay, a 10-year SOAP veteran. “Staging a high-energy farce such as this with eight characters is a lot of hard work and cast and crew are stepping up to play an important part in our success.” Szalay counts on the experience of stage manager Jen Jensen, producers Patrick Turner and Jennifer Mapplebeck, costume magician Bernice Myllyniemi, and set and props wizardry from Robert and Marla Wilson, among the many talented crew.

Lend Me a Tenor opens at OSS Theatre Osoyoos on the weekend of May 23 – 24 , and at Venables Theatre in Oliver, May 30 – 31. Curtain rises 8 p.m. for all shows. Tickets are available now at Sundance Video (Oliver) and Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos) for $18 adult, and $15 senior or student.

Photo: The hapless Max (John Guiliano) costumed as famed tenor Tito, tries to romance two of Tito’s admirers at once: Maggie (Tracey Granger, left) and Diana (Robin Stille). 

Photo Credit: Penelope Johnson