There’s a lot of door slamming in Saint Vincent Summer Theatre’s upcoming production of “Lend Me a Tenor.”
The frenetic action is central to the plot of playwright Ken Ludwig’s popular farce, mixing subterfuge with mistaken identity, according to SVST producing artistic director Greggory Brandt.
The show will be staged Tuesday through July 17 in the performing arts center at Saint Vincent College in Unity.
It’s 1934 as famed Italian tenor Tito Merelli arrives in a hotel suite prior to performing with the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. Unwittingly, the divo known as “Il Stupendo” to his fans is given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm his nerves.
When Merelli passes out, he’s assumed dead by the opera company’s manager and his assistant. From there on out, it’s a mad race to conceal the situation and to find a suitable replacement for Merelli.
After all, the show must go on — especially since the night is crucial to the opera company’s survival.
Throughout the play, the actors rush repeatedly through the set’s six doors — from the hallway to sitting room to bedroom to kitchenette to closet to bathroom.
“Making sure the doors even work is half the challenge,” Brandt said.
Obviously, the show is very physically demanding of the actors, he added.
“We use every inch of the set, the props, the items of furniture on the stage,” Brandt said. “It’s kind of like controlled chaos. It’s like a snowball that gets out of control rather quickly.”
This is Brandt’s first time directing “Lend Me a Tenor,” although SVST previously staged it in 2013.
“It’s a little bit of a revised version,” he said. “Instead of the tenor coming from the classic opera ‘Otello,’ this version is more of a 25th-anniversary version for the Cleveland Opera, and they’ve switched from ‘Otello’ to ‘Pagliacci,’ with the white-faced clown. But it’s still the same premise, same story and same characters.”
As director, he said, his task is to keep the right tempo within the chaos.
“You want to keep the pace going, but you don’t want to minimize the funny moments,” he said. “You think they’ll be funny, but you’re not sure, and you don’t want to rush over them and you don’t want the audience to miss one.
”It’s humbling and challenging to me trying to pay homage to a show like this,” he added. “Ken Ludwig does so many great farces, and this is at the top of the list.”
His cast makes the task easier, he said.
“They’re all good souls – talented people, yes, but also good people who make a quick turnaround and a quick production possible,” Brandt said. “We’re only rehearsing for nine days, so it’s rather fast-paced.
“They’re a good, solid group and, really, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time.”
Among cast members are local actors Dan Krank of Latrobe in the role of Tito Merelli and Kim McLeod, who teaches at Stage Right in Greensburg, as Julia, the head of the opera guild. Recent Saint Vincent College graduate Justin Massetto, who acted in college productions, plays the bellhop.
Other cast members hail from New York and New Jersey.
“Lend Me a Tenor” concludes the theater company’s shortened, two-production season, which follows a two-year pandemic hiatus. The season opened in June with “Nunsense,” which Brandt said drew good crowds.
“It was a good way to restart the summer theater,” he said. “We’re hoping the (post-performance) cabaret can return next summer, and the goal next year is to have three productions.”
Curtain times for “Lend Me a Tenor” will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through July 16 and 2 p.m. Wednesday and July 16-17. Tickets are $20 to $25 at 724-537-8900 or stvincent.edu.