Wednesday, January 1

Theater Review: Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre: Lend Me a Tenor

Opening its 41st season (full schedule here) Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis, follows its record-setting production of "Les Miserables" with "Lend Me a Tenor" by Ken Ludwig. The Tony-Award winning farce is in its 25th year of successful stage productions. 

Set in Cleveland, 1934, the opera lovers of the Midwestern town are ready to hear the world-famous Italian tenor Tito Merelli (Craig Underwood) sing lead in "Otello." 

Underwood's vocals alone would earn the audience's admiration, but his comedic timing and connection with his stage wife, Maria (played by Jill Kelly) sealed the deal. Kelly portrays the over-the-top stereotypical Italian wife with enthusiasm and matched with Underwood's energy and timing.
Merelli's late arrival sets the story line as he is accidentally overdosed by Max (David Schmittou) who is left to tend the temperamental artist. Believing he has killed the star, Max dons makeup and costume and takes the stage in Merelli's place. Portraying the boring, straight-man role, Schmittou surprises the audience when he displays his operatic vocals.

As local female fans chase the faux tenor, Saunders, (Eddie Curry), aids in the zany coverup. Curry brings in the strongest performance as the agitated, desperate-to-save-his-livelihood GM of the opera company. As father of Max's fiance, Maggie (Erin West), and responsible for the star's safekeeping, Max sputters, sweats and attempts to strangle Merelli with pure conviction.

West plays the star-struck fan thwarted by Otello costar Diana (Erin Cohenhour) and Julia (Gerri Weagraff), Maggie's aunt. The tenor awakens and the ladies chase, along with Maria and several other characters.

Adding to the wacky play is Jeff Stockberger as the also-star-struck bellhop. Stockberger's tall frame in a bellhop uniform and cap is the perfect touch to this fun romp through a hotel room.

Bottom Line: Beef and Boards' Lend Me a Tenor opens its 41st season with excellent comedic timing.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated fine-living, travel, food, wine and spirits columnist, freelance writer and photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic for Gotta Go. Catch her as Indy’s Personal Lifestyle Adviser on Indy Style, WISH8 (CBS). Read Infused, her spirits, wine & beer lifestyle column, at www.GottaGo.us and www.FoodDigital.com Gotta Go is published on www.Gottago.us, and in magazines. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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