06/19/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Stanley Tucci's Tenor hits high notes

A week after his Broadway directing debut, Lend Me a Tenor, opened to glowingly positive reviews, director Stanley Tucci is lonely - and it surprises him.

"Normally, when I make a movie, once you finish shooting, you take the actors with you for three to five months of editing," Tucci, 49, says in a telephone interview. "But with this, as director, you rehearse and open - and then you go home and the actors keep doing it every night. My experience as an actor is being in the theater with them for every show."

He pauses, chuckles and adds, "I'm bereft."

The play, a farce by Ken Ludwig in its first Broadway revival since it opened in 1989, is a laugh machine, a hilariously unlikely plot involving a Cleveland opera impresario and his timid assistant (who dreams of being an opera singer) and their attempt to import a famous Italian tenor for one performance. Angry and ambitious women, slamming doors, mistaken identity - they're all elements of an audience-pleasing comedy whose cast includes Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Justin Bartha and Brooke Adams.

The production doesn't just mark Tucci's Broadway directing debut - it's also the first time he's ever directed a play, though he has acted on Broadway and directed four films.

"I've wanted to direct a play for a long time," he says. "I'm working with the guys who produced Frankie and Johnny in the Claire du Lune (in which he starred with Edie Falco in 2002) and they'd been after me to act in another play since then. But I've got little kids and I live in Westchester (the suburban county north of Manhattan). I don't want to be away from home that much. So I said, 'If you ever want me to direct...'

"When we talked about it, I said I didn't know what I wanted to direct, so they started sending me scripts: Chekhov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams. And then they sent me this one. When I read it, I was laughing so hard in my office. I thought, 'This is so up my alley.'"

Still, he felt guilty: Offered all of those classic dramas, he was choosing a screwball farce.