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Raleigh Little Theatre's Lend Me a Tenor

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Lend Me a Tenor
Raleigh Little Theatre
Through April 26

This classical music farce opens with an aroused woman convulsing on the couch of a swanky hotel room as she listens to a record of a certain tenor called Tito Merelli. Maggie (Adrienne Morton) climaxes with surprising vigor, recovering as her boyfriend (or fiancé, depending on who you ask) Max (Loren Armitage) gently begins this Rube Goldberg machine of a play.

Playwright Ken Ludwig's award-winning Lend Me a Tenor revolves around Merelli, known as "Il Stupendo" to his fans, and his role in the highly anticipated benefit performance of Verdi's Otello with the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. As everything that could possibly go wrong does—including mistaken identities, aggressive and confused seductions, and a misunderstood death—the standout moments result from intricate timing and pacing, with credit due to director Rod Rich. As Signor and Signora Merelli, Michael Jones and Tracey Phillips showcase boisterous snapshots of agitation in their marriage, while Armitage and Tony Hefner as Saunders, the opera's manager, have a delightful moment of choreography as they finish each other's sentences to reveal their game plan for Merelli's visit.

While there are many enjoyable moments along the way, Morton's opening orgasm is the most daring part until the curtain, where all actors recreate the entire production at warp speed with impressive coordination. The show lacks the subtle mastery necessary to make the comic yet transparent plot of this farce truly satisfying. Still, this show is built to please—last Sunday a nearly full house cheerfully let RLT carry them through the plot with the ease of riders on Disney World's "It's a Small World" boat ride.

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