Does the summer heat have you a bit depressed? Are you longing for relief? I have the perfect cure for you and it promises to be only slightly habit forming: Ken Ludwig’s hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor opening tomorrow night, August 13, in Peoria’s Arizona Broadway Theatre. It may be set in the Great Depression but there is nothing remotely depressing in this insanely funny comedy.
Arizona Broadway Theatre’s Executive Producer and Co-Founder Kiel Klaphake is directing Ludwig’s madcap farce and he has populated the play with some of the funniest actors you are likely to see anywhere in the Valley, all ABT veterans, Maris Fernandes, Michael Wolter, James Rio, Morgan Springer, Roy Hunt, David Errigo Jr., Morgan Rudolph and Carolyn McPhee.
Klaphake is at home both on stage and behind the scenes. This past season he starred as Erik (“The Phantom”) in the Yeston/Kopit Phantom. Last season, he appeared as Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun. For two years, Klaphake performed the role of Raoul in the original Hal Prince production of The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, Germany. Stateside credits include Show Boat, La Bohème, The Merry Widow and The Yeoman of the Guard, among others. Also at ABT, Klaphake has been the musical conductor for Brigadoon and stage director of Cabaret and Gypsy.
Michael Wolter & Morgan Rudolph
The Examiner spoke with both director Kiel Klaphake and Lend Me a Tenor co-star Roy Hunt (Tito, Il Stupendo) about the making merry with Ludwig’s play. Today, we talk to the director. Tomorrow, celebrating opening night, we will talk to Il Stupendo himself.
Q: What can ABT audiences look forward to with Lend Me a Tenor?
A: I think Ken Ludwig is one of the better writers of farce. I have also had the chance to do his Moon Over Buffalo, also an excellent farce. Ludwig seems to do it better than a lot of others. His plays have all of the requisite elements of farcical comedy but his plays have a much better, tighter construction. A lot of these types of comedy are written sloppily and are kind of hard for the audience to follow. The stories are so complex and the audience must pay constant attention if they are not going to get lost in the plot. The actors need to avoid being cartoonish and must remain true to their characters.
Michael Wolter & Morgan Rudolph
Q: How would you compare Lend Me a Tenor to another famous slapstick farce, Noises Off?
A: I don’t know if you could compare them. Noises Off is one of the three funniest farces ever written, including Lend Me a Tenor and maybe Run for Your Wife. I don’t know if you can really compare them because you have all the set interaction in Noises Off. During the play’s three acts the set is flipped around and is always a part of the action. That set is a true character in all the comedy. In the second act you hear the same lines being repeated but from the vantage point of being backstage.
Lend Me a Tenor is a pretty unique story. It is such a period piece too. It is set in the 30’s which you will see mirrored in our lovely set and costume designs. It’s a crackpot comedy set in a time when madcap farce was the rage in Hollywood. We are keeping the comedy very true to the way Ludwig wrote it.
I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change Now thru September 19
Q: How will Lend Me a Tenor play in repertory with I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change?
A: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a single unit set. There are a lot of props and such flying around. Even though I Love You and Tenor are two different shows we are looking at them as the same, technically. We are able to build them in such a way that we can roll one off stage for the other. We haven’t done the switch yet. This week we will see how fast the move and assembly will be. It will take a couple of hours in the beginning to make sure it is done properly. We plan on getting the set switch done to about 30 minutes.
Q: Do you think Lend Me a Tenor lends itself to the Marx Brothers?
A: A bit! I have never really thought much about correlating the two. I think with the Marx Brothers it is much more simple slapstick. There isn’t really a thread or a common objective in their humor. It’s seemingly more spontaneous and less plot driven. In a farce like Lend Me a Tenor, the characters have to be very committed to their comic path and own motivations. If it just physical comedy for physical comedy’s sake the audience will get quickly tired of it. Ludwig’s play has the perfect balance between the physical elements, the humor elements and the inherent character elements.
Lend Me a Tenor August 13 to September 26
Q: This is the first play that ABT has done, isn’t it.
A: Yes, it is. But it’s not the last, next season we will close with another play, Steel Magnolias. I would like to encourage people to some to the theater and share in our new venture. We have assembled an incredible ensemble cast. All of the cast members have appeared in other ABT shows over the years. It’s nice to see everyone sort of coming home for this production.
If you you would like to read The Examiner review for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, see I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change reviewed at Arizona Broadway Theatre.
Photos by David Errigo Jr., unless otherwise noted, all photos and graphic artwork courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre.
For additional information regarding I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Lend Me a Tenor ticket availability and/or repertory performance schedule, please contact the Arizona Broadway Theatre Box Office directly, either by phone at (623) 776 8400 or ON LINE.