Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: Ken Ludwig's hilarious Comedy of Tenors is a winner at the Paper Mill Playhouse

Photo by Jerry Dalia; from left to right: John Treacy Egan, Judy Blazer, Donna English, Jill Paice, Ryan Silverman, Michael Kostroff and David Josefsberg

"Zany" may be the best word to describe the hilarious Ken Ludwig Comedy of Tenors that has opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse. This wild sequel to Ludwig's Tony-winning Lend Me A Tenor must have been inspired by the Three Tenors (José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti) historic World Cup concert. In this version, we have the Cleveland Opera presenting their own three tenors concert with all the comic action of the Marx Brothers...multiple doors opening and closing, various stages of dress and undress, and general chaos.

To the fans of the Paper Mill's 2013 production of 
Lend Me A Tenor, the very great news is that not only are Tito, wife Maria, young Max and Cleveland Mayor Saunders (now Tito's manager) back....they are the same actors. In fact, director, Don Stephenson is also repeating. Broadway stars and Paper Mill Playhouse favorites returning are: Judith Blazer (Maria), John Treacy Egan (Tito), Donna English (Diana), Nancy Johnston (Julia), David Josefsberg (Max), Michael Kostroff (Saunders), and Jill Paice (Maggie). New is ​Ryan Silverman as the young tenor Carlo Nucci, Tito's fast rising rival.

First-The Plot: The producers describe the plot of this sequel as follows: "One hotel suite, four tenors, two wives, three girlfriends, and a soccer stadium filled with screaming fans. What could possibly go wrong? It's 1930s Paris and the stage is set for the concert of the century — as long as producer Henry Saunders can keep the amorous Italian superstar and his hot-blooded wife from causing runaway chaos. An uproarious ride, full of mistaken identities, bedroom hi jinks, and madcap delight." This is spot-on, no reinterpretation is needed. 

Photo by Jerry Dalia; l to r: John Treacy Egan, Michael Kostroff and David Josefsberg
The play is set entirely in a spacious Paris hotel suite overlooking the concert venue, a soccer stadium (ok, football). Center stage is Michael Kostroff as Saunders, the former Cleveland Mayor, now Tito's manager. He is on the phone with Max, one of the three tenors, and his son-in-law. His first words: " Max! What the hell are you doing?! Get up here!. . . I don't care if you're rehearsing, I need some help. The concert starts in three hours and Tito isn't here yet." With that the wild, very funny roller coaster ride begins.

What happens when Tito finally arrives with his spitfire wife Maria? Why does Tito decide to refuse to perform? Who is the imposter? Who falls from the balcony? Why does Tito declare he wants a divorce? (Maria replies "That is two of us who want a divorce...I, too, want one!").Who is romancing his daughter? All this and more if you journey to the Paper Mill Playhouse. If there is too little humor currently in your world, Comedy of Tenors is the perfect vehicle to refill your tank. - All this plus a rousing rendition of the Drinking Song from La Traviata. 

Beside the daffy plot are the wonderful performances of the cast of seven. In particular; John Treacy Egan nails Tito, nicely unmasking Tito's bluster to reveal his vocal and marital insecurities; Judith Blazer IS Maria. Tiny compared to the other cast members, she more than holds her own, Clearly an audience favorite. Plus, blessed by Ludwig with some of the funniest lines; Michael Kostroff as Saunders perfectly carries off the difficult task of demonstrating almost constant hysteria. Also, adding greatly to the fun are; Donna English, Nancy Johnson, Jill Paice, David Josefsberg and Ryan Silverman.

Remember the line "A good time was had by all?" Well that is what this production of Ken Ludwig's Comedy of Tenors provides. This is a TEN on my Laugh Meter. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   February 5, 2017

​The creative team includes: set design by Michael Schweikardt, costume design by Mariah Hale, lighting design by Stephen Terry, sound design by Randy Hansen, music direction by Alexander Kariotis, and hair and wig design by Paul Huntley.

Performances are running through Sunday, February 26. at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive) in Millburn, NJ. For ticket availability click here.
Running time is approximately 2 hour with intermission.

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