The West End is a tough nut to crack at the best of times and despite its best efforts, the musical version of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me A Tenor lasted barely 2 months at the Gielgud in 2010. It’s strange, especially in light of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ relative success, as it occupies a similar groove with its traditional, even old-school, vibes, aping a classic era of musical theatre with japes and jolliness but somehow, it just didn’t connect with audiences – not everyone loves a farce…
Its old-fashioned humour and madcap antics are well served by Brad Carroll’s score and Peter Sham’s lyrics and book, which follows the trials of the Cleveland, Ohio Grand Opera Company as a world famous tenor scheduled to sing in their Otello goes AWOL in the hotel just hours before he’s due onstage. Is there a schmuck who can step in at the last minute and pretend to be Merelli, of course there is, but there’s also jealous wives, lovelorn girlfriends and conniving co-stars aplenty to thicken the plot.
Highlights in the score for me include ‘Fling’ is brilliantly sung by Cassidy Janson’s hungry Maggie, chasing Humbley’s Max; the glorious Joanna Riding is under-used as temperamental diva Maria Merelli but her main two numbers the operatic duet ‘Facciamo L’Amor’ and toe-tapping wonder ‘The Last Time’ are simply delicious; and Sophie-Louise Dann and Michael Matus share an amusing trip through many an opera in ’May I Have A Moment?’.
But you do hear the imbalance in the show with an ever-increasing number of main players overloading the plot and a consequent decrease in the number of songs available through which to explore their characters, something sorely felt in the second act. It is a warm-hearted charmer of a musical in the end though, and I did enjoy revisiting it. Surely it is time for a fringe revival south of the river somewhere.