Lend Me a Tenor

The Center for Performing Arts, Rhinebeck

TroupEnigma promises “the memory of a delightful few hours in the theater,” but do they deliver?

By Andrew Andrews

Austin Lightning Carrothers, Emily McCarthy, Joseph Bongiorno, Stephanie Hepburn and John D. Remington in TroupEnigma’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor, directed by Michael Juzwak. Original photos by Rachel Karashay.

In just a few hours, world-famous tenor Tito “Il Stupendo” Merelli is supposed to appear in the Cleveland Opera Company’s Pagliacci—but he’s nowhere to be found.

General Manager Henry Saunders and his assistant Max are in a frenzy trying to salvage the biggest event in the company’s history, when Merelli finally appears with stomach troubles, claiming that he can’t take the stage.

When Merelli refuses to get some rest before deciding, Max slips some tranquilizers into a glass of wine for him—not knowing that Merelli’s wife has already convinced Tito to take a dose on his own.

Unable to wake Merelli for the show, Max and Henry make a comedic effort to save face as well as the performance, insisting that the show must go on by any means necessary.

Set during the 1930s, Lend Me a Tenor originally ran on Broadway and the West End in the 1980s, and was adapted into a short-lived musical in 2010 before being revised in 2019 to remove some references that were perceived as racist.

The complete cast includes Stephanie Hepburn, Joseph Bongiorno, Diana Borshcheva, John D. Remington, director Ken Ludwig, Emily McCarthy, Marco Caviglis, Jesse Truin and Austin Lightning Carrothers.

Lend Me a Tenor is the first offering from TroupEnigma, a company formed by director Michael Juzwak and actors Austin Lightning Carrothers and John D. Remington, whom we last saw perform together at The CENTER’s murder comedy Deathtrap last October.

Elevating their antics to full-on farce with this production, the company delivered the impossible plot and physical comedy with expert precision, making everyone in the audience crack up repeatedly—including yours truly (although I didn’t burst out quite as often as many of my fellow theatergoers).

The set, which depicts two adjacent rooms in a suite, looks straight out of a landmark Cleveland hotel, and Remington’s slight resemblance to Leslie Nielsen enhances the sense that this is buffoonery you don’t want to miss.

As with all productions at The CENTER, Lend Me a Tenor is a great value, with tickets coming in below thirty bucks, for a quality show delivered by passionate actors and supported by a savvy crew. Although the seats might not be the most roomy and comfortable in the Hudson Valley, they’re just good enough, and there’s plenty of time during intermission to stretch your legs or change seats if you find either necessary.

We always look forward to the next offering at The CENTER’s main stage, and now—thanks to TroupEnigma—we can also look forward to their upcoming productions not only in Rhinebeck, but at the Phonecia Playhouse in December as well.

Andrew Andrews attended Lend Me a Tenor at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Friday, September 2, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.