Laughs Aplenty 

Knock 'Em Dead bids adieu to '04-'05 season with riotous Tenor

If you're experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu reading this column, don't worry. There's a rational explanation for your extrasensory feeling and mine.

It was just three years ago in these very pages that I reviewed a performance of the charming and popular comedy Lend Me a Tenor, then being staged by Stage Coach Theatre. It's easy to see why the play has proven popular with audiences and theater troupes alike. Mistaken identities, fun costumes, witty repartee and a barrage of slamming doors have proven a winning combination of ingredients to make a stage production shine.

This time around, Knock 'Em Dead Dinner Theatre proudly takes the Tenor torch and, thankfully for us, keeps it burning brightly to the play's riotous conclusion.

For those whose sense of recollection is not as keen, here's the scenario: It's Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1934. The set is a hotel suite, where famed opera tenor Tito Merelli (the always-reliable David Scott) is staying with his wife, Maria, (KED staple Susie Black), prior to a much-hyped and packed performance. Prior to his arrival, we meet Saunders (Patrick Schow), the nervous manager of the Cleveland Opera, and his timid assistant Max (Grant Schoeneweis), who dreams of having his own operatic career and sees Tito's arrival as his best opportunity for insight. Elsewhere on the prowl are Saunders' starstruck daughter, Maggie (Laura Kerbs), who's also Max's girlfriend; an overeager bellhop (Nate Price, doing double duty as Tenor's stage manager); self-assured soprano Diana (a scenery-chewing Kenna Marks); and flighty Opera Guild chairwoman Julia (a scene-stealing Marie Galyean, hysterically attired as a queen of England look-alike, tiara and all). Events turn tense when Tito is found presumably dead in his hotel room bed. The show, of course, must go on, so Saunders convinces a reluctant Max to step into Tito's shoes for the performance. Max does so, but Act II spirals into a whirlpool of chaos when Tito's body turns up missing.

It's safe to say that this talented cast keeps the laughs coming through the two-hour production, though at times during Act I on opening night, it was a strain to hear actors over the drone of a presumed air-conditioning unit overhead. Pacing lagged briefly early on in the act as well, but picked up quickly as actors relaxed into their roles.

Scott and Schoeneweis are particularly standouts, each marvelously filling his character's shoes with amusing facial expressions and booming voices. The pair even share a similar build, making that above-mentioned mistaken-identity thing a believable turn of events. Kerbs and Marks turn the manic energy up a notch in Act II in their fanatical pursuit of "Tito."

The set is a fitting mix of reds and mauves, split in two between the hotel suite's living area and bedroom. A door separates the two rooms at the back of the stage, but both rooms are quite open to the audience, which at first proves distracting when you realize the characters can't see through the vast invisible wall. Costumes, as always, are first-rate, a testament to director Scott Beseman's shrewd sense of style.

Lend Me a Tenor, By Ken Ludwig, Directed by Scott Beseman, Thurs-Sat, June 9 to 25, Knock 'Em Dead Dinner Theatre, 333 S. 9th St., Boise More info/tickets: 385-0021.

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