This musical adaptation of Ken Ludwig’s farcical ode to Pagliacci offers door-slamming tomfoolery, fast-paced comic melodrama, and three clowns running around downtown Cleveland and pretending to be the famous tenor Tito Merelli. When the Merellis arrive at their hotel suite, Maria (Bree Murphy), tired of her husband’s flirtatious tendencies, writes a “by the time you read this I’ll be gone” note and leaves Tito (George Walker) to his fame — and his fans. Meanwhile, tasked with babysitting their star until curtain, opera underling Max (Joe Ogren) slips Tito a glass of wine spiked with barbiturates. Tito finds Maria’s letter and becomes agitated — and very drowsy. He passes out, and Max, who can’t rouse him, mistakes Maria’s letter for Tito’s suicide note. Opera director Henry Saunders (Erik Stein), who won’t be ruined by the death of one clown, dresses Max, who has vocal chops but lacks confidence, in the Pagliacci costume and sends him onstage in Tito’s place.
Things get complicated after Max gives the performance of a lifetime, and both Diana (Karin Hendricks) — the aggressive actress playing opposite Canio — and Max’s girlfriend, Maggie (Caroline Whelehan), are desperate to meet (and bed) Tito. The real Tito, who’s awake, in costume, and on the run from the police, who think he’s a nut-job, returns to the hotel room to find that he’s somehow mid-seduction with both Diana and Maggie (each in a different room). He also encounters Max (still in costume), Henry (now also in costume, because someone dressed as Tito had to meet president Roosevelt), and Maria, who has returned to make amends.
Directed by Brad Carroll, the PCPA cast did an outstanding job of maintaining high, humorous energy in a show that demands a fast pace and precise timing. A well-conceived production with handsome period costuming (by Eddy L. Barrows), Lend Me a Tenor showcases musical comedic talent at PCPA.