James Madison High School’s production of “Lend Me a Tenor” was a highly entertaining experience for all involved. Every aspect of the play came off as authentic and sincere, from the performance to the overall design, and it was obvious from the start that the cast and crew had put a lot of hard work into putting on a meticulously planned show.
“Lend Me a Tenor” takes place entirely in a single hotel room. The male lead, Max, is the assistant of a producer, Henry, who is putting on a presentation of “Othello." Max is dating Henry’s daughter, Maggie, who has fallen for the star of the upcoming production, a popular singer known as Tito Merelli. Chaos ensues when Merelli arrives at the hotel with his wife, Maria, and he ends up getting tranquilized on the very day of his performance.
The actors and actresses involved did a fantastic job of portraying their characters, leaving little doubt that they had truly studied their characters rather than simply memorizing the lines. Sean Pedersen in particular did a fantastic job of portraying Max, changing his mannerisms subtly as the play progressed to show character development. Everyone from the lead to the bellhop were convincing on multiple levels, both through dialogue and through mannerisms. Physical interaction between the characters was a notably common element. Characters would regularly back each-other into walls, physically assault one-another, and even jump into each-others’ arms, all with flawless timing. Props were also being thrown around quite a bit, in some instances with such good timing that the audience did a double take. There was a small amount of inconsistency in character voicing in certain places, but not nearly enough to take away from the immersion.
James Madison’s theater team utilized the play’s single setting to their full advantage, making sure that the two rooms were designed to the highest standard of quality that they could manage. The rooms themselves were separated by an incomplete segment of wall, so that the audience could clearly see everything that happened in either one. Both rooms were immaculately decorated, with nearly every single detail being accurate to the period. As if the set wasn’t impressive enough, even the area behind the set was decorated, so that it looked completely natural when an actor exited through one of the many doors. The small details in the set design helped immensely to establish the setting, and it’s difficult to find any real faults with the set as a whole. Costume and makeup were also incredibly accurate, and added a unique atmosphere to the play.
Technically speaking, the crew at James Madison went above and beyond. Triggered events were perfectly timed, from the music and sounds to the changes in lighting. Of particular interest in the tech setup were the on-stage speakers, which allowed for realistically positioned phone-ringing and radio playing among other things. In scenes where characters were talking on the phone, you could even faintly hear the person on the other line, a subtle yet amazing touch of realism. There were a few problems with microphone volumes, although they were only really noticeable during the first few minutes of each act.
Speaking as somebody who is completely new to Cappies and to high-school theater, James Madison’s production of “Lend Me a Tenor” was a fantastic introduction that left me wanting more. Color me impressed.