I was invited to attend a final dress rehearsal of the Goshen Players production of Lend Me a Tenor by Lydia Babbitt and, although I usually jump at the chance to get this special preview, I couldn't make it. I therefore made a point of accepting a complimentary ticket to opening night at this lovely little theatre that Ms. Babbitt describes as "our beloved home, Old Goshen Town Hall." The theatre is located at 2 North Street, at the Rotary Junction of Routes 4 and 63 in the heart of Goshen, CT and is an easy drive from the Torrington area and about 40 minutes from Naugatuck.
The town hall has been transformed into a two level intimate theatre and the orchestra level is set up cabaret style with small round tables arranged in neat little rows with four chairs each, while the second level balcony offers standard seating and presumably a great view of the highly-raised stage. Since you can easily move your chair, I am sure that there is not a bad seat in the house. The table is set with complimentary coffee and tea and a plate of sweet finger foods. My tea was poured by an volunteer who happened to play the Mock Turtle in last week's Alice in Wonderland benefit show at the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre. Before the show began I ran into Val Vitalo and she mentioned that she had once played "Julia" in a production of Lend Me a Tenor; I am sure that she was absolutely wonderful in the role. I also caught up with the parents of young Michael Meier, a newsboy in Annie at the Warner, and I sincerely hope that the amazing theatre program at Blessed Sacrament School in Waterbury will be offered again soon.
Ms. Babbitt is the President of the Board of Directors and during her announce she mentioned that this marks the 65th season of Goshen Players, Inc. which was established in 1949. Upcoming productions here include a staged reading of Animal Farm, Rumple Who? for children, and Little Shop of Horrors in April/May. I will definitely be returning to this lovely little theatre.
Lend Me a Tenor is a highly entertaining farce. Director Janice Luise-Lutkus writes about the audience having to "accept and not question illogical or outlandish situations." She has risen to the challenge of creating a "three ring circus of slamming doors, Abbot and Costello-style crosstalk, double takes and pratfalls at top speed and top volume and doing it all on a small stage." Honestly, these parts of the show were my favorites. The show by Ken Ludwig won a Tony when it was on Broadway in 1989.
The story involves a world famous opera singer (the Tenor) who is to sing Otello in a fundraising gala for the Cleveland Opera Company; an ardent fan wanting an autograph and hiding in the closet begins madcap and fast-paced craziness and leads to a hilarious end. The action takes place in a beautiful Art Deco hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934. Master Carpenter Dave Boscarino and his set construction team have built an impressive one that includes five doors reinforced for lots of slamming. (A couple of the set builders were sitting at my table.) Lori Poulin (usher, concession seller, stage manager and substitute "Dizzy Duck" in Peter Cottontail at the Phoenix Stage Company) did an amazing job as the set decorator and earned a write-up in the Playerbill in the middle of the program. The period costumes include satin gowns, fur stoles, and tuxedos complete with red satin-lined capes. One lady's cape reminds another character (and the audience) of the Chrysler Building. Hair and (extensive in some cases) make-up by Judy Tringali was spot on. The lighting designed by Susan Kinkade added to the beauty of the stage and the sound engineered by Michael Accuosti added to the fun.
There is no weak link in this cast. Ron Dukenski is a composer in residence for the Connecticut Choral Society and plays the bombastic general manager of the opera "Henry Saunders" with great comic timing. Scott Stanchfield plays the tenor "Il Stupendo Tito Merelli" with the perfect accent and a great voice. Janice Connor plays the aforementioned "Julia" big and broad in scope and is as funny as always. Colleen Renzullo ("Mother Superior" in Phoenix Stage's Drinking Habits) is an Italian riot as "Il Stupendo's" wife "Maria." Meriden resident Tracey Brown is just plain adorable as "Maggie," while Alex Giacin had the audience in stitches as the ambitious bellhop.
Michael Accuosti from Prospect is the perfect "Max, " mild-mannered at first, then transforming into his own "Il Stupendo." Finally, the "force of nature" Juliette Koch, most recently seen as "Miss Hannigan" in the Warner's Annie, makes her first appearance on the Goshen stage as the bombshell "Diana," an ambitious soprano in the company who unfortunately doesn't get to sing here. While she was obviously dressed down as Miss Hannigan, she sports far more revealing outfits here to great comic effect.
Go see this wonderfully funny show in this charming venue. The audience at opening night was laughing throughout and many guffawed at the outrageous goings on. Park across the rotary and walk to the first building on Rt. 63. Do not leave the theatre before the curtain call because you will miss the hysterical final "scene," a highly choreographed recap of the show with no dancing involved.
Click here to listen to the podcast of Backstage with Johnny O's interview with Juliette Garrison-Koch and Scott Stanchfield about the upcoming Goshen Players' production of Lend Me a Tenor.
Lend Me a Tenor will run October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8:00 pm and October 7 and 14 at 4:00 pm. All tickets are $20 and can be reserved at 860.491.9988 or at www.goshenplayers.org.