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'Lend Me a Tenor' kick-starts Hale Center Theater Orem's new year

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

LEND ME A TENOR; Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North; directed by Kymberly Mellen; 7:30 p.m. now through Feb. 16; running time, 2 hours 30 minutes with one 20-minute intermission.

OREM — It can be difficult to harness the attention of a rowdy crowd eager to welcome in the new year.

But soften them up with hot, good food, hand out plenty of horns, hats and paper ribbons, add in a stellar cast with terrific comic timing and a fun script, and you've got 'em.

The packed house for "Lend Me a Tenor" roared for the antics involved in the story, which included having to switch out a world-famous tenor with a wannabee guy and a girl who thinks a fling with a star will outstrip one with her steady boyfriend.

They laughed and followed the action up to the ringing in of 2013, partied and then were pulled right back into the story when the cast fell right back into character and proceeded (not an easy trick).

It's a story full of zaniness born out of Maggie Saunder's (played by Brighton Quinn Hertford) crush on famed singer Tito Merelli (Marshall Lamm). She's willing to stalk him to get a few minutes alone.

Add in Max (played in excellent fashion by equity actor Blake Barlow) and you instantly have a love triangle involving a man waiting to be acknowledged, a groupee and a tenor with big appetites.

Then there's Diana (played by Holly Anderson), who too wants Merelli's time and affection and doesn't care how she gets it.

Maria Merelli, the jealous and typically shrewish wife (played by Heather Jones), is haughty and fed up. When she leaves her husband in a huff, it opens the way for Maggie and Diana — but now there are two Tito Merellis running about.

Julia Leverett (played by Karen Baird) is a little in love with Merelli, too.

Then there's the bellhop (played by Chase Ramsey), who is only supposed to have a bit part but the director (Kym Mellen) was so tickled with his antics that his part was expanded to include a singing Viking during the "love" scenes.

It all works even though on opening night a piece of door molding fell off and the audience could see through to the lobby through the doors when two of the six opened and shut.

The set is genius, with an early 1930s fancy motel room suite decorated to the nines, complete with two rooms divided by half walls on the tiny but magic stage.

The costuming is excellently put together with period touches and details like the button-down suit coat for Merelli.

It's well done throughout with the highlights in the delivery of the dialogue and in the interchanges between Lamm and Barlow as Tito and Max, even before they take on each other's role.

In one scene they finish each other's sentences. In another they stir one another's drinks as they become friends before your eyes. Their Italian accents are perfect.

Hale Center has taken measures to "clean up" the lovemaking scenes so the whole show can be enjoyed without discomfort.

It's polished, funny and fine.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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