Among my earliest (and fondest) memories on this beat is reviewing a rip-roaring rendition of the Ken Ludwig farce “Lend Me a Tenor” at Marietta’s old Theatre in the Square, which famously featured a rather peerless ensemble of actors, several of whom are still quite active on the local theater scene some 25 years later: Carolyn Cook, Alan Kilpatrick, Jill Jane Clements and Shelly McCook.
McCook, a typically indomitable presence on stage, now steps behind the scenes to direct Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s “A Comedy of Tenors,” Ludwig’s belated new sequel to his earlier success. Where the original show (set in 1934 Cleveland) was an homage of sorts to the Hollywood screwball comedies of that era, the follow-up (set in Paris circa 1937), with its slightly more risqué language and sexual innuendo, “comes perilously close to French farce” instead, as one of the play’s many madcap characters puts it.
As written, lightning doesn’t exactly strike twice. But it might only seem like a hard act to follow for anyone else who’s been around long enough to have caught that previous production of the first “Tenor,” because, as executed by McCook and company, “Tenors” is lively enough and agreeably cast on its own accord, boasting such proven talents as Brian Kurlander, Courtenay Collins, Lane Carlock and Haden Rider.
The sequel reintroduces some of the same characters, including the blustery general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera, Saunders (Robert Egizio), and his flustered assistant Max (John Markowski), who’s now also his son-in-law. They’re in Paris to present a highly anticipated concert by the temperamental Italian singer Tito Merelli (Kurlander), who arrives with his equally tempestuous wife, Maria (Collins), both of whom also figured prominently before.
New to the mix this second time around: their daughter Mimi (Lyndsay Ricketson), an aspiring actress; her boyfriend Carlo (Rider), an up-and-coming operatic rival to her father; and the Russian diva Tatiana Racon (Carlock), who has a history with Tito, on stage and off.
Kurlander, most familiar for his dramatic work (such as Actor’s Express’ “The Christians” last fall), is particularly delightful here (in dual roles, no less), demonstrating a flair for broad physical comedy and even a certain musical talent – although some of his aria excerpts are pre-recorded and sung from out of sight — despite paling in comparison to a vocalist as accomplished as Rider (“Jesus Christ Superstar” with Atlanta Lyric, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Aurora) alongside whom he performed during one scene.
McCook’s production designers acquit themselves very nicely: Stephanie Polhemus’ stately and functional scenic design depicts a swanky hotel suite, replete with a requisite number of slammable doors and an image of the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop; the fancy period costumes are by Emmie Tuttle; and Dusty Brown’s lighting occasionally punctuates punchlines and a few highly stylized tableaux.
Will you remember the show 25 years from now? Probably not. “A Comedy of Tenors” may be more innocuous than indelible, but it’ll do.
If you go
“A Comedy of Tenors”
Through March 18. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 4 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. $26-$40. Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest Street, Roswell. 770-641-1260. www.get.org.
Bottom line: Suitably silly.