26 January 2014

A Review of "Lend Me a Tenor" at Playhouse on Park

The secret to a good farce is a premise that, on the face of it, is eminently believable, but then, through the vision of the playwright, brought to life by both the director and the cast, pushes that credible premise to the verge of lunacy...while never forgetting the human heart at its core.  Not an easy feat, as you can easily imagine.

Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor is one of those scripts that, if done with energy and skill, works very, very well, and, as directed by Jerry Winters for Playhouse on Park, it delivers.

I should note that I have had a relationship, mostly by marriage, with classical performing arts companies (not unlike the Cleveland opera company depicted in the play), so the credibility factor of a) a narcissistic tenor, b) a panicked and frustrated executive director, c) several wannabe performers, and d) a whole bunch of fawning guild-members and/or fans, is decidedly high in my experience.  So, from the start, the farce could play out almost in any way, and I'd have been along for the ride.  In short, trust me, this scenario COULD happen (almost the way it's been imagined).   ;)

Mr. Winters' direction of the fine cast is crisp and light.  Highlights among the cast, for me, are Mike Boland's Saunders, Jeff Gonzalez's Max, Lilly Warton's Maggie, and Corrado Alicata's bellhop (with Saunder's proposed announcement to the audience the funniest thing I've heard in a long time).  While the other cast members (Robert Wilde as the larger-than-life tenor, Ashley Ford as the tenor's wife, Katie Vincent as the aspiring soprano, Donna Schilke as the head of the opera guild) all do very fine jobs, their casting underscores the one weakness of the production, through no fault of their talent or even portrayals.

Photo Credit: Rich Wagner
(l-r: Wagner, Boland, Gonzalez, Alicata, and Schilke)
The play is set in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934, but, aside from the art deco doors and the phone in the hotel suite, I never felt that this was anything but the present time.  While this feeling could stem from my too often thinking and dressing like it's 1942, every one in those latter roles looked too contemporary to me. Maybe I've seen the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera one too many times, but the head of the opera guild should look like Margaret Dumont (not the svelte, energetic Ms. Schilke), and, while opera singers throughout history have come in all shapes and sizes, a more Pavarotti-sized tenor, might have made the plot play out in an even more farcical fashion.

Now, this, perhaps idiosyncratic, view should not suggest that the execution of the play by the cast and crew isn't top-notch nor anything short of very, very funny.  Whether it's 1934 or 2014, the ego and the jealousy, the lust and the love, the ambition and the flatulence, are laughable and recognizable.

And, no matter the year, nothing can warm a very cold night (or day) like a good, hearty laugh -- not to mention a swell love story, too (but no spoilers here)!

Lend Me a Tenor runs at Playhouse on Park through February 9.  

25 January 2014

My Super Bowl Prediction

I'm going to assume that the weather in northern New Jersey next Sunday is going to be cold and icky, the way most would think it would be the first weekend in February.  Good call, NFL -- even as the NHL is holding a hockey game outside in southern California!  (What brain trusts are running these leagues?)

I'm also going to assume that defense and a running game will, as it always has, prosper in such conditions.

BUT, since this Super Bowl is being played in an era when quarterbacks are loved and, more importantly, taken care of, I will also assume that there will be:

a) at least one (and probably two) roughing-the-passer penalties against the Seahawks,

not to mention

b) at least one defensive pass interference call against each side (although, no matter how many are called against the Broncos, the Seahawks will have at least one more than that number called against them).

As a result, the score will be a little higher than expected, since, despite his poor cold-weather record, Peyton Manning's offense will manage to move the ball more than Super Bowl-rookie Russell Wilson's.

Final Score: Broncos 17  Seahawks 14

Please, gentle reader, do not use any of this "reasoning" to actually bet on the game, as I'd be very sorry if you lost even a little money.

10 January 2014

And this advertisement and picture on my facebook wall...

...is how fb responds to my declaration that, with the advent of "dress sweatpants" (pictured below), civilization has officially come to an end:

Nostradamus predicted you'd order this. 
And he was never wrong.

54,899 people like this.

In the past two day of this Year of Durante...

...I've managed to get my hands on cd copies of both Jimmy Durante's 1965 collaboration with Gordon Jenkins, Jimmy Durante's Way of Life

and his 1967 inspirational collection Songs for Sunday (although the cd has 20 songs instead of the 10 on the original lp).

And, while I confess to enjoying fully the Schnozzola's approach to songs, I must admit, with the latter album, that I can't help but be expectin' a "ha-cha-cha" -- even in the midst of "Precious Lord."

An Open Letter to Xfinity.Comcast.net

Dear Xfinity.Comcast.net:

I thought I was going to be able to keep track of the number of times in 2014 that you thought a female "entertainer" (latter word very loosely defined) looking very good in a swimsuit was worthy of a spot on your website. Then I would tweet it under #____WowsInBikini.

Y'know, I figured I'd be making a snarky statement about the frivolous nature of contemporary "news."

But, I give up....it's early on January 10th, and, to be blunt, I'm already TIRED of posting these things!  And I can only imagine how hard you all must be working to, on average -- more often  than every 48 hours -- be able to uncover a new version of this same picture to WOW us.  Now THAT must be exhausting work.

Kris Jenner is the latest ... joining Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Jane Seymour, and Charlize Theron. And this number, naturally, only includes the swimwear posts and not any of those women who have "stunned" in a "slinky dress" or some other "skin-tight look."

God bless you, all, for the important work you're doing.

Just once I'd like to see you post a picture of someone, anyone, wowing us with a book or an idea or a painting or a...


PS: Whatever happened to "swimtrunks"?

06 January 2014

03 January 2014

2014 is, I have declared,...

a) the "Year of Jimmy Durante" (follow on Twitter at #YearOfJimmyDurante)

Jan 1st: The Blanks' "Ballad of Jimmy Durante"

Jan 2nd: The Song's Gotta Come from the Heart

Jan 3rd: Frosty The Snowman



b) the year that I'm going to track the number of times the website Xfinity.com thinks an actress in a swimsuit is newsworthy.  (Follow on Twitter at #_____WowsInBikini")

Thus far, only three days into 2014, Charlize Theron and Jane Seymour have been spotted!


Ah, a big year ahead, no?