Theater Info for Maryland

Heritage Players Lend Me a Tenor

By • Mar 21st, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Lend Me a Tenor
Heritage Players
Rice Auditorium, Spring Grove Campus, Catonsville, MD
Through April 1st
2:10 with intermission
$15/$13 Students, Seniors, Military
Reviewed March 16th, 2012

Oscar Wilde has been credited with saying “Dying is easy, comedy is hard!” Well, ain’t that the truth! And in Ken Ludwig’s brilliantly written Lend Me a Tenor, it’s as hard as it gets. The play, which originally opened on Broadway in 1989 and got an all-star cast revival in 2010, is currently being produced by The Heritage Players.

It’s an old-fashioned, physical, door-slamming, mistaken-identity, run-around, and fall-on-your-face and bottom farce. In 1934, the renowned tenor Tito Merelli (Daniel Douek), known to his fans as “Il Stupendo,” is scheduled to sing the lead in Ottello the opera, which is being produced as a gala fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. Unfortunately, even before the star leaves his hotel room, everything begins to unravel. Chaos ensues when Merelli’s wife Maria (Patricia Morgan), who has mistaken an autograph-seeker hidden in his closet for a secret lover, leaves him a “Dear John” Letter. The distraught Merelli accidentally is given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him and passes out. Saunders (John Sheldon), the company’s General Manager, is determined that the show will go on (for his own financial sake), so he asks his assistant Max (Stephen Michael Deininger) to impersonate the opera star. Max puts on the blackface makeup required for the role of Otello, and his disguise succeeds admirably — until Merelli, also in blackface, wakes up and heads for the stage. What follows is a chain-reaction of mistaken identity, farcical plot twists, double entendres, innuendoes, and constant entrances and exits through many doors.

The Heritage Players, its young, first-time director (Damien Gibbons), and the cast put great effort and energy into the production. Unfortunately, quite unsuccessfully. You kind of know what kind of evening of theatre you are in for, when prior to curtain, the director walks onstage, greets the audience, and proceeds to asks them to laugh very hard at the jokes.

Deininger and Douek try very hard, but, between Douek’s constant and over-the-top screaming and Deinger trying to figure out whether he wants to play his character as a bumbling idiot or a na├»ve dashing hero, most of the comedy and the wit is lost.

Sheldon is merely mediocre, letting every juicy line get lost. Morgan is physically cast well and does have honest moments of love and rage for her man; however, once again, with nonstop over-the-top moments, screaming, and grimacing, the character just slips away. Christopher Carothers is the bumbling, star-struck bellhop and all I can honestly say is that he seemed to have a great time being on stage (and I guess at times for some that is exactly is enough). Heidi Toll as Julia tries to portray a grand dame; however, she comes across as a slightly tipsy guest after a high society New Year’s party. The highlights of the production are Ashely Gerhardt as Diana and Erin Stauder as Maggie. Both actresses display a range of comic ability and timing and practically save Act II.

The production and design team do a nice job with the set, lighting, sound and most props; sadly, it’s just not enough to make the show work.

On a positive and admirable note, since its beginning in 1975, Heritage Players donates a portion of their proceeds to cast-chosen charities. From this production, a portion of proceeds will be donated to two charities: Spring Grove’s Patient Fund and Music is Medicine.

Photo Gallery

Cast2 Cast 1
Maggie1 Tito and Saunders

Photos provided by Heritage Players


  • Maggie: Erin Stauder
  • Max: Stephen Michael Deininger
  • Saunders: John Sheldon
  • Tito Merelli: Daniel Douek
  • Maria: Patricia Morgan
  • Bellhop: Christopher Carothers
  • Diana: Ashely Gerhardt
  • Julia: Heidi Toll

Production Staff

  • Director: Damien Gibbons
  • Assistant Director: Tim Van Sant
  • Stage Manager: Stuart C. Kazazanow
  • Set Design: Al Gillis
  • Set Decoration: Damien Gibbons, Al Gillis, Kate Sheldon
  • Costumer: Robin Trenner
  • Master Carpenter: Al Gillis
  • Sound Technician: Stuart C. Kazanow
  • Light Board Technician: Jeff Pleines

Disclaimer: Heritage Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

3 Responses »

  1. Roman, the audience did like it. And it is a Farce , it suppose to go over the top..really would like to know how you would do it better.

    And congarts for your 4 kids, I just have 1 seven year old and do not think I will survive.

    Daniel “Tito” Douek

  2. Did we watch the same play? I was in attendance on March 17 and everyone in my audience, including myself, had loads of fun. I didn’t happen to think anything was “over the top”. After all, that’s what a farce is, right? And who really cares what a reviewer thinks as long as the audience (those people who pay to get in) has a lot of fun and is entertained for 2 hrs?

    And honestly, this is community theater. If you’re looking for Broadway-quality actors, you’ll most likely have to look elsewhere. These are the folks who act because for them, not acting is like not breathing. They’re not getting paid, they’re doing this for the love of bringing characters to the stage. I feel as though someone who claims to have worked as an actor for 20 years should understand that. Though I’m not an actor myself, just a community musician. And yes, I’m married to one of the cast.

    And as a type of community performer, I’ll just close with this… while none of us expect everyone to rave, a bad review cuts deep to the bone. Feel free to not like something, but I do find it amusing that your comment policy talks about avoiding personal attacks while you totally engage in that within your review. But that’s ok. I can take comfort in the fact that I’ve never heard of your website before, and it was difficult for me to find this review on Google in the first place, so I’m sure it won’t be all that widely seen.

  3. Hi Daniel and Karen (and the rest of the Heritage Players family),

    Comments like yours frequently happen when we first review a community theater group and the show doesn’t get a rave. Yes, reviews are one person’s opinion. Yes, we know you spend three to four months of your lives working on the show. Yes, it’s quite possible that the performance on the 16th was “off” in some way, while the performance on the 17th was perfect. All the writers at ShowBizRadio have been involved with shows before, we do understand your frustration. Do note that Roman also mentioned quite a few positive things about the production. I hope your closing show on Sunday goes great, with many broken legs all around.

    Daniel, I’m sorry I didn’t post your comment on Friday afternoon, but insults aren’t really called for. I was busy with other work tasks (the ones that pay the bills), and today my wife and I reviewed three shows in the DC area. We’re always looking for more writers, especially in Maryland, so please contact me if you’d like to pitch in and help.

    Thanks, Mike, Editor,