Encore Theatre presenting its first non-musical, 'Lend Me a Tenor'
It hardly seems a coincidence that Encore Theatre’s first foray into producing a “straight play” (as opposed to a musical) is a farcical comedy about an opera singer.
Specifically, Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor,” which takes place in 1934 at the Cleveland Opera Company. Renowned tenor Tito Mirelli is scheduled to sing the lead role in “Otello,” but before the singer even leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel.“This is the fifth anniversary for Encore, and as such, it’s a big milestone,” said “Tenor” director Tobin Hissong. “(Co-founder Dan Cooney) and crew wanted to branch out and start doing some different things, and seeing how much they could challenge their audiences, and they thought (‘Tenor’) was perhaps a good step toward doing that. It’s a well known comedy, and they thought it would be a good opportunity to start exploring different uses for the space.”
Cooney approached Hissong about the possibility of directing “Tenor,” after Hissong expressed interested last year in directing a small cast show.
“(Cooney) called me and said, ‘Well, we have a spot available, and we want you to do this because of the experience that you’ve had as an actor working in straight shows,’” said Hissong. “They thought it might be a good opportunity for me to come in and not have to worry about music and choreography, and just focus on the acting part of it, and build my experience that way. I’ve directed before, but not in a very, very long time. So I was thrilled with the challenge.”
“Tenor” opened on Broadway in 1989 and was nominated for 9 Tony Awards (it won for best director and best actor).
Encore’s production features the talents of Paul Hopper, Barbara Coven, Brian P. Sage, Sebastian Gerstner, Thalia Schramm, Angela Miller, Tara Tomcsik and Elliott Styles.
“I have an absolutely dynamic cast, and they are making it so much fun to rehearse and explore the various facets,” said Hissong. “There’s 8 people on stage, and Encore’s not a particularly big space, so we’re trying to use that to our advantage. There is a lot more humor in this show than I have seen on stage in other productions, and a lot of that is because of the cast that I have. They really are pulling out all the stops on this, and I just sit back and laugh during rehearsals.”
Of course, the pacing and energy level have to remain high throughout a farcical show like “Tenor,” so Hissong and his cast have kept this in mind since the first read-through.
“It’s going to be non-stop from start to finish,” said Hissong. “There’s always something in motion someplace.”