Ken Ludwig may well be the consummate writer of farce in the modern theatre. His plays include “Moon Over Buffalo,” “Baskerville,” “Twentieth Century,” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” his first play which won two Tony Awards. The production of “Lend Me a Soprano” at the Olney Theatre Center is a gender-swapped adaption of “Lend Me a Tenor.” It still maintains the wonderful madcap farce we have come to expect from Ludwig. Director Eleanor Holdridge choreographs the fast-paced action with aplomb.
…a wonderful, farcical romp that will have you rolling in the aisles.
The curtain is open when you enter the theater. There is a drawing room and a bedroom that convey opulence—brocade upholstery, crystal chandeliers, and vases filled with flowers. Several doors foretell of the antics to come.
The setting is a hotel room in 1934 in Cleveland. The world-famous opera-star, Elena Firenzi (Carolann M. Sanita), is set to appear. Would be opera-star, Jo (Rachel Felstein), is to meet and accompany Ms. Firenzi during her stay, including the concert. Jo’s beau, Jerry (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), is smitten with the sexy Italian soprano. His mother, Mrs. Wylie (Tina Stafford), is the person responsible for bringing Firenzi to Cleveland and setting up the concert. Once Firenzi arrives, a bit late, with her husband, Pasquale (Dylan Arredondo), the chaos ensues.
Ludwig uses many references from Shakespearean farces—letters that are misconstrued, mistaken identities, potions that backfire, etc. He also utilizes devices that can be seen in Marx Brothers’ movies—doors that hide and doors that lead several places.
Elena and Jo are the sparks of the plot. First and foremost, the actors can truly sing opera. Both know how to be sexy, and in Felstein’s case, a little frumpy as well. The comedy comes from their interactions with each other and the rest of the cast. Stafford has her share of laughs as the sometimes foul-mouthed manager of the Cleveland Opera, Mrs. Wylie, as does Natalya Lynette Rathnam as Beverly the bellhop, also enamored with Firenzi.
Ebrahimzadeh delightfully captures the slightly nerdy Jerry. Tom Patterson also provides a good bit of the humor with Leo, the Nordic opera singer who is extremely amorous and ambitious. Donna Migliaccio is quite comical as Julia, the over-dressed chairwoman of the Opera Guild. Arredondo’s Pasquale is a bit Pavarotti and bit Jackie Gleason, playing the jealous and phlegmatic husband of Elena Firenzi.
Andrew R. Cohen’s set allows the direction to keep the timing so perfect. It creates the mood of the play as well as being visually appealing. Sarah Cubbage has a few challenges with the costuming which she accomplishes easily, from the lush gowns to scant undies. Alberto Segarra’s lighting design and Matt Rowe’s sound design work in unison with the action, helping to make the comedic scenes work well.
“Lend Me a Soprano” is a wonderful, farcical romp that will have you rolling in the aisles. Don’t leave too early. There is a very clever curtain call that you won’t want to miss.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.
Advisory: Contains some mature situations and language.
Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Soprano” runs through March 10, 2024 at the Olney Theatre Center in the Roberts Mainstage, 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. There will be an audio-described performance on March 6 and a sign-interpreted performance on March 7. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 301.924.3400, Wednesday – Saturday, 12-6 pm or go online.