Review: Lend Me a Tenor

Shenanigans abound in East West Theatre's spring production

Photo: Linda Li

Dir Dave Earl

Cast Max, Owen Bell; Maggie, Joanna Dong; Saunders, Paul Collins; Tito, Daniel Cotterall; Maria, Elena De Salvatore; Bellhop, Rami Abuna'meh; Diana, Alexia Kalteis; Julia, Andra McKay


Shenanigans abound in Ken Ludwig’s Tony Award-winning Lend Me a Tenor, the latest spring production from Shanghai's longest running amateur theatre group East West. A light hearted farce, the action revolves around a famous womanising Italian tenor (reportedly based on Placido Domingo) who passes out right before a sold-out show of Verdi’s Otello, leaving the company manager's assistant to take his place. When the tenor later awakes and attempts to take to the stage, mistaken identities, double entendres and slapstick comedy ensue.


While the set is sparse and cobbled together on a shoe string (during one awkward moment with an uncooperative set door, we were worried the entire stage may crumble before us), East West make creative use of the small performance hall at Downstream Garage. Dividing the stage into the neccessary two rooms of the hotel suite in such a way that only the audience see the action in both at once, it lends itself well to much of the 'don't open that door'-style suspense which farces thrive on.


In the lead role of Max, Owen Bell copes well in the limelight as the stage hand turned stand-in opera star. He balances the shy retiring nature of Max with his take on the rambunctious Tito Merelli with ease and many a comical moment. He and Daniel Cotterall as the real Merelli balance each other nicely during the final reveal scenes with their shared bewilderment and exhaustion making for some of the play's funniest scenes.


Paul Collins also works well as the wry Saunders, general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, full of dry one liners delivered with appropriate deadpan. We also raised many a laugh for Andra Mckay who is particularly enjoyable as the pixie-like chair of the opera guild Julia, pursuing the man she presumes to be Tito.


There is the odd dodgy Italian accent and given the operatic nature of the production, some unfortunate lip-syncing we could have done without, plus a bit too much Benny Hill-style chasing each other around coffee tables for our tastes, which doesn't quite work in the small space, but these are small gripes overall and the cast keep the energy up throughout making for a humorous, lively spring time production.


Lend Me a Tenor is at Downstream Garage from Wednesday 17-Saturday 20 April. See full event details.


Entry is by donation with profits going to Olivia's Place children's charity. Contact the box office on for tickets.