Student production earns cheers
By Nancy Maingi
Over a three-night run from Oct. 3 to Nov. 2 at GPAC, the student production of Ked Ludwig’s farce play “Lend me a Tenor” earned cheers from the approximately 400 play-goers.
|Photo by Nate Howard
“Lend me a Tenor” was well received by audience members at GPAC from Oct. 3 to Nov. 2. The humorous play is about a decadent character who faces a comedic turn of events after he overdoses on tranquilizers. He is immediately replaced but he encounters his substitute when he regains consciousness. Elisha Lawson, left, plays the substitute, Max, and Ruth Golsteyn plays Maggie.
The play takes place in a hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1934.
The play revolves around an Italian tenor named Tito Merelli, who is supposed to take the stage for the Cleveland Grand Opera company.
Before he takes the stage, the audience is introduced to Merelli’s wife, Maria, who reveals his love for other women and excessive drinking.
Everything unravels when Maria mistakenly finds a young woman, Maggie, in the closet, seeking Tito’s autograph.
Although it isn’t what it looks like, Maria decides she has had enough of her husband’s infidelity and writes him a goodbye letter.
Maria manages to leave Tito Merelli; however, the letter sets the stage for a very twisted turn of events.
Terribly distraught by his wife’s departure, Tito Merelli overdoses on tranquilizers and passes out.
The owner of the Cleveland Opera Company, Saunders, decides the show must go on and urges his assistant, Max, to impersonate Merelli on stage.
Although a little hesitant, Max decides to go along with the plan.
Everything seems to be going well until Merelli awakes and sets off for the stage as well.
All this opens the door for one of Ludwig’s most humorous, confusing, eventful and award-winning comedy plays.
The award-winning comedy, directed by UNCP’s professor Holden Hansen starred a plethora of UNCP students ranging from freshmen to recent graduates.
Tito Merelli was played by senior T.J. Gajda II. Max was played by sophomore Elisha Lawson. Maria was played by sophomore Jalessa Malloy. Saunders was played by senior Justin Meier. Maggie was played by junior Ruth Golsteyn.
Also in the play were freshman Kendra Adams and sophomore Charlotte Cassidy. Stage manager was recently graduated Bethann Cox, and assistant stage manager was senior C.J. Reid.
This is one of my most favorite plays directed up to date,” said director Hansen.
“It’s a play about Italy, opera and passion, and the cast did an outstanding job of delivering that to the audience.”
Castmates P.J. Gajda (Tito Merelli) and Elisha Lawson (Max) agree.
“It was different,” said Elisha Lawson. “We had to learn how to sing, act and connect with the audience at the same time…the final product
was what you saw on stage and I feel like we were all very proud of it.”
“It’s one of the best plays I’ve done as an actor; the cast had great chemistry and it showed on stage…it was so fun and relaxing plus working with Elisha was awesome,” P.J. Gajda, who starred alongside Lawson said.
The chemistry between the cast was very evident.
“Max and Tito were hilarious,” said sophomore Jessica Gray.
“The whole play was hilarious…I’m not sure we were expecting it to be so funny…or so good,” Gray continued.
This was the reaction from most of the audience: an unexpected pleasure.
It was especially humorous when the cast did an 85 second curtain call at the end.
“When Maggie walked out, the audience started to cheer because they thought it was a normal curtain call; after a few seconds the audience realized we were re-enacting the entire play and burst into laughter…it happened every single night.”
This had to be the most enjoyable part for the audience as they would burst into laughter and stand up cheering.
Hansen urged those who missed out to attend more school productions and share in the theatre experience.
“People need to learn to go to the theatre…it’s an amazing experience, our lives on stage, and our connection to the universe…shared with an audience,” he said.
Upcoming productions include Jean Anouilh’s play “Antigone” in February.