By Kendall Howze
After a nostalgic adventure through the jungle with Tarzan and a train ride to River City, Iowa in Music Man, Glenelg’s drama department showed the highly praised play, Lend Me a Tenor. Kassidy Sharp’s third play here at Glenelg took the audience back to 1934 to watch the chaotic night of eight individuals in a Cleveland hotel suite. In the play, the manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, Henry Saunders (Eli Schwelling, Senior), anxiously prepares for the arrival of the world-renowned tenor, Tito Merelli (Alex Melvin, Senior). When everything gets out of control with Merelli and his wife Maria (Gloria McComas, Junior), and Merelli goes missing, Saunders and his assistant, Max Garber (Jake Baker, Junior), have to figure out how to save the show without letting Merelli’s fans discover that he is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, other guests and workers at the hotel, Diana (Jess Foster, Junior), Julia (Linda Roby, Senior), Maggie Saunders (Julia Rankin, Senior), and the hotel’s bellhop (Matthew Hulett, Junior) try their best to get past Saunders and Garber to meet Merelli.
Lend Me a Tenor was the first straight play (a play that is not a musical) Sharp directed in her career. After directing musicals for years, the transition into putting together Lend Me a Tenor provided a new experience. Going into the play, Sharp believed that directing the play would be easier than a musical because of missing musical element. Without having to choreograph dance numbers, it seems like there’s less to do. Sharp, however, quickly found that this wasn’t the case for Lend Me a Tenor. Because there’s no musical element, there are less directors. Generally Mr. Rawlings works with Sharp and the student director as the musical director in charge of teaching the music. Sharp and her student director, Junior Emily Soeken, took on all of the responsibility of directing by themselves. Sharp felt this put even more pressure on the two of them.
Though there was a surprising amount of work demanded, Sharp loved all of it. Because there were only eight actors in the entire cast, Sharp said that working with them was a “close knit experience.” The cast members worked well and connected with one another being in such a small group. Sharp found it easier to have a better understanding of the cast, making it easier to fix individual problems than it would have been with a larger cast. Jess Foster agreed saying, “Since there's only 8 people in the cast, we were very close. It was really fun.” The cast had a great time rehearsing together, as well as performing for the audience.
The actual performance is always different than it is in rehearsal. Sharp said, “I’d stopped laughing,” not because the jokes weren’t funny, but because she’d seen the play so many times, “and the actors weren’t used to laughter anymore. The audience does the opposite of what you think.” The audience seemed to enjoy the show as much as the actors loved performing.
While adjusting to a smaller cast size, everyone also had to adjust to a set design that was unique to previous musicals at Glenelg. Lend Me a Tenor only had one set that did not move. Typically there are multiple sets that stage crew rotates throughout the play to create a change in the setting. Lend Me a Tenor, however, took place in the same setting throughout the play. The focus never left the Cleveland hotel suite. Building the set challenged Sharp, who modeled the entire set, from an interior design standpoint. While there was a general guideline of what the set should look like based on the plotline and the set from the original production, Sharp had a lot of freedom to design herself.
Glenelg’s Lend Me a Tenor was a huge success. The audience loved it as much as the cast loved working on it. For everyone hoping to see or be in another straight play, Sharp will definitely have another one next fall. Until then, everyone can look forward to Glenelg’s spring play, Seussical.