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St. Albert Dinner Theatre mounts revamped Lend Me a Tenor

The farcical comedy pokes fun at opera's stuffiness while highlighting the dreams of young adults
St. Albert Dinner Theatre mounts Lend Me a Tenor from April 4 to 20. The cast from top left to right is Christopher Thrall, Laurie Borle, David McKay, Carolyn McGratton and Rob Beeston. Front Row is Jenn Bewich, Bob Latimer and Darienne Johnson. MELANIE DOBOS/Photo

When St. Albert Dinner Theatre announced its intention to mount Lend Me a Tenor, it raised a few eyebrows. 

First produced in 1986, playwright Ken Ludwig’s farce is deliberately set in 1934. It revolves around the Cleveland Grand Opera Company’s attempt to wrangle a hard-drinking, lusty opera celebrity into performing the lead role in Otello

SADT director Stuart McGown was quick to point out that in 2019, Ludwig changed the opera from Otello to Pagliacci, a clown leading an acting troupe. Driven to heights of jealousy like Otello, he too ultimately murders his wife.  

“Directing this show is a departure for me. I’m mostly involved in murder mysteries. I’ve played with musicals, and I’ve been in comedies,” said McGowan.  

Pagliacci, the clown, is merely a plot device to kick-start the plot. The farce revolves around Tito Merelli, a world-famous tenor invited for a one-night performance.  

However, the wacky cast of characters have their own agendas. Soon general manager Henry Saunders and his assistant Max fall into one mishap after another involving too many tranquilizers, mistaken identities and a jealous wife. 

When Tito is presumed dead after an overdose, Saunders instructs Max, a closet tenor, to wear the Pagliacci costume. Without a performance, the opera company stands to lose a great deal of money. But Tito wakes up and dons his costume resulting in the two actors becoming interchangeable to their fellow characters. 

“It’s popular because of the period and setting. It’s fast-paced and there’s a lot of movement. The stage is split between a bedroom and a sitting room with action happening on both sides. It requires the actors’ timing to be impeccable,” McGowan said. 

Among the eight-member cast, Rob Beeston stickhandles the unenviable role of Henry Saunders. 

“Rob is such a professional in everything he does. He brings a real stodginess to the role.” 

The role of Max was difficult to fill with only three actors auditioning for it. 

“Bob Latimer was our choice. He impressed us because he was able to find an inner innocence and intuition. And we’ve seen his character grow and develop confidence throughout the play.” 

Christopher Thrall, one of SADT’s regular actors, plays the larger-than-life Tito Merelli. 

“In the back of my mind when I was casting, I envisioned someone with stature. He’s loud and proud and he seems to be saying, ‘I’m here. Come listen to me.” 

On the younger side, Darienne Johnson plays Saunders’ daughter Maggie. She is Max’s girlfriend but has a crush on Tito. 

“She has a wonderful combination of being sweet, but she’s also not afraid to stand up to her father.” 

Laurie Borle returns to play Maria, Tito’s jealous wife who believes her husband is cheating. 

“When Laurie read the role, she had real passion. She was able to burn on stage without losing her temper and going over-the-top. She had a second audition against Christopher and the chemistry was so delicious. They’ve acted together before and have a real comfort level.” 

Jen Bewick slides into the role of Diana, the company’s sexy soprano who is fully aware of her powers of seduction. And Carolyn McGratton is back as Julia, the opera guild’s chairwoman. 

“She always looks imposing and impressive. She floats in and gives an air of importance. You pay attention when she walks in.” 

David McKay is the flamboyant bellhop, who has few lines, but commands attention when on stage. 

McGowan equates Lend Me a Tenor to early Abbot and Costello movies in the 1930s. 

“It’s fast-paced. There is comedy and a dynamic cast. And all the roles play off each other. Everything that happens is hinged to something else going on. Each character is interdependent with the other characters.” 

Lend Me a Tenor takes place April 4 to 6, 11 to 13, and 18 to 20 at Kinsmen Banquet Hall. Tickets are 780-222-0102 or online at 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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