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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Ken Ludwig’s 2015 offering – A Comedy of Tenors, which opened last evening at Carmel’s Actors Theatre of Indiana, is the some-years-later sequel to Ludwig’s Tony Award winning comedy from 1989, Lend Me a Tenor. It revisits many of the older play’s characters, including producer Henry Saunders, his former assistant – now son-in-law and opera singer – Max, and world-renowned opera star Tito Merelli along with his feisty wife, Maria.

The year is 1936, the place is Paris, and it is Saunders’ ambitious aim of put together the “concert of the century” engaging three of the world’s finest tenors in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium. When complications arise, the resulting chaos is a fun-filled farce, with lots of mistaken identities, mishaps and mayhem. Oh, and there are doors, plenty of doors…

Cast

from left: Brynn Tyszka, Don Farrell, Jacob Gerard Barnes, Jenny Reber, Mark Fishback, Nic Eastlund, and Amy Bodnar join forces in ATI’s production of “A Comedy of Tenors”

Director Darrin Murrell has put together a remarkably adroit cast led by the uber-versatile Don Farrell as Tito, with Amy Bodnar, a dynamo as his fiery wife Maria. Jenny Reber is charming and funny as their love-struck daughter Mimi, Mark Fishback is righteously bombastic as producer Saunders, and Nic Eastlund is suitably nebbish as his down to earth son-in-law Max. Young actor Jacob Gerard Barnes does great work as young singer Carlo Nucci, and Brynn Tyszka has a slavic sensuality in her role as Russian opera star Tatiana Racon. These seven excellent performers lead the audience through the twists and turns of Ludwig’s complicated plot, with stop offs for prat falls, double takes, somersaults, and a flurry of innuendos and overplay that might be out of place in some comic shows – but not here!

Max and Henry

from left: Nic Eastlund (Max) and Mark Fishback (Saunders) share their dismay in ATI’s production of “A Comedy of Tenors”

The production’s two acts work as a set-up/payoff coupling that makes the second act especially hilarious. Let me just point out – Mr. Farrell has to work twice as hard as his cast-mates to perform his assignments, although all involved do splendid turns in this difficult script. Director Murrell has filled the piece with every possible idea for fun he could imagine. To quote him: “there is more schtick than you can shake a schtick at.” (Frankly, I personally have never seen a character onstage have so much fun with an oversize beef tongue, nor will I likely ever again.)

Carlo and Mimi

from left: Jacob Gerard Barnes (Carlo) and Jenny Reber (Mimi) in a scene from ATI’s “A Comedy of Tenors”

Top credits go to P. Bernard Killian for his beautiful hotel suite set design, Katie Cowan Sickmeier for her stunning costume designs and Zach Rosing for sound. Production stage manager Kevin Casey keeps all the juggled balls in the air from his booth up-top.

Bottomline: Although I had some difficulty understanding the various accents as each character made their initial appearance, in due time my aural senses came around to better comprehension. Unfortunately, I feel I missed some of the exposition, but overall, the fast humor and talented portrayals won the day. It is a very funny show, and the audience was filled with enjoyment.

A Comedy of Tenors continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through Sept 30th. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photos by Ed Stewart Photography
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