Moonlight Troupers taking on farcical `Lend Me a Tenor'


Arundel Live

April 08, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Anne Arundel Community College's Moonlight Troupers have embarked on their final week of rehearsal in preparation for next weekend's opening of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts.

Ludwig's farce, filled with mistaken identities and assorted tenor groupies, opened on Broadway in March 1989. It ran there for more than a year, winning many awards including two Tonys, then ran in London, where it was nominated for the Olivier Award as comedy of the year. The show has been seen in 200-plus productions in more than 25 countries.

Moonlight Troupers' production will run for two weekends starting April 15, and it was here recently that director Robert Kauffman, a former performing arts department chairman, was immersed in rehearsal.

Tenor marks Kauffman's first directing assignment since Peter Pan in November 2002, which followed a 30-year performing-arts career, including at least 65 Moonlight Troupers productions.

Two and a half years later, Kauffman, at the invitation of current performing arts Chairwoman Barbara Marder, is back directing the Moonlight Troupers spring show.

"This is the first thing I've done since retiring that requires a schedule, and it feels good to be back rehearsing four nights a week, Monday through Thursday," Kauffman said. "We held auditions the first week of February and have been in rehearsal since then." He says it's a strong cast, all of whom are students except Joy Ajello, who was called in to play Julia after the original actress fell ill.

Moonlight Troupers' production features Vernon Lewis as Italian tenor Tito Merelli. Lewis, a former Six Flags actor and stunt performer, made his Moonlight Troupers debut in last fall's award-winning Pippin, in which he was the leading player.

At a recent rehearsal, Lewis took breaks by walking on his hands, and juggling several balls simultaneously. In his scenes, he demonstrated aptitude with the Italian language and summoned an acceptable Italian accent.

Other cast members also nearly ready for prime time included Elizabeth Enkiri as Maggie, Larry Griffith as Max, Brendan Leahy as Saunders, Caroline Cook as Maria, Colleen Arvidson as Diana, and Ajello, AACC's woman of many talents. Cast as the Bellhop, John Jennings was not part of the recent public rehearsal.

Ludwig, of Potomac, an attorney-turned-playwright, is a supporter of regional theater in Washington, where he has lived since 1975. He has written such comic hits as Crazy for You and Moon Over Buffalo.

Lend Me a Tenor's plot centers on the opening of Cleveland's opera season with the arrival of famous tenor Tito Merelli for a single performance of Verdi's Otello.

While 1,000 opera fans wait, Merelli pursues wine and women instead of song, forcing the opera impresario to call in a tenor substitute. Merelli is accompanied by his jealous wife, Maria, who decides to leave him because of his infidelities, leading Tito to overdose on sleeping pills.

Saunders, the opera company manager, disguises his tenor-assistant, Max, as Merelli. In the ensuing farce, characters come and go, and two tenors dressed in identical Otello costumes are in and out of a hotel suite where they open and shut doors on groupies and opera mavens.

Involved in the choreographed slapstick are the tenors, Tito Merelli and Max, and groupies include Saunders' daughter, Maggie, along with Julia, who heads the Opera Guild. Also in pursuit of Tito is his co-star, ambitious soprano Diana. Adding to the fun are Maria and a stage-struck bellhop.

All of this insanity will be brought to Pascal Center at 8 p.m. April 15, followed by 8 p.m. shows April 16, 22 and 23, a 7:30 p.m. performance April 21, and 2 p.m. matinees April 17 and 24. Seats are priced at $10 general admission, $9 for senior citizens and groups, $8 for AACC staff and high school students and $6 for AACC students.

Reservations: 410-777-2457.

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