At the end of Lend Me a Tenor, the cast races silently through the entire course of events that took place during the play. It's by far the most memorable, hysterical and downright surprising part of the performance. This innovative and structured chaos comes after the final curtain but before the final bows; it's a spot of one last humor hurrah before sending the audience home. It helps to ultimately define the type of play Tenor sets out to be - one rife with drama and intrigue but that makes its mark with its playfulness and physical comedy.
With a star-studded cast headlined by Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub, and Justin Bartha, Tenor had a lot fundamentally to deliver to the awaiting audience. It's rare to find a play that when two different actors enter the stage for the first time, the play halts to allow for the crowd to cheer and clap. While both Shalhoub and LaPaglia deserve the honor bestowed on them, but this play actually belongs to Bartha, who must navigate through the insanity of a play chock full of mistaken identity, double entendres, and plotting and conning.
The duo of Bartha's Max and Shalhoub's Henry reminded me of Leo and Max's relationship in The Producers, where the two are forced to rely on each other and make due with the circumstances they're dealt. Tenor, too, keeps to the theatrical tradition that anything can - and will - happen once a set of characters mutter something along the lines of "What can go wrong?" But the lunacy that ensues isn't outdated or cliche; it comes alive in its own refreshing way thanks to the stellar cast. The entire cast, especially Shalhoub, sell their lines and parts to perfection.
Overlooked acting techniques like body language, line delivery, and positioning lead to the biggest laughs of the night. These are lost arts in today's age. But the actors here commit to selling even the most mundane of lines as uproarious punch lines. Shalhoub and Bartha at one point engage in a conversation reminiscent of an Abbott and Costello routine that features the proper pacing and deserving "shimmy" back and forth with each turn. And on several occasions, cast members hurl or spit props into the audience, creating the ambiance you'd typically associate with a magic performance, not a Broadway show.
Somehow, through all the confusion and mayhem, it all fits. During the performance I attended, while energetically rising up from a fake fall, Bartha topples over again. When he comes to his feet, LaPaglia is standing to the side witnessing him struggle to come to his feet. It's immediately obvious from the look on LaPaglia's face that Bartha wasn't supposed to crash that second time. It was an unexpected mishap. But LaPaglia's cheek-to-cheek grin and need to deeply exhale - out of character - only made the audience laugh harder at Bartha's miscue and misfortune. In another play, this could have caused a setback. Here, it provided yet another sweet moment.
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