Funky Little Theatre Company offers up a fun farce not to be missed

The talented troupe at Funky Little Theatre Company hit all the right notes in Lend me a Tenor, Ken Ludwig’s popular 1986 farce, which runs through Feb. 8 at the quaint Colorado Springs venue.

Winner of three Tony awards, the play is a screwball farce set in 1934 Cleveland. The local opera guild is hosting Italian virtuosi Tito Morelli, the greatest tenor of his era (with an ego to match). Fortunes and reputations are at stake as a series of calamities unfold that undermine the evening’s expectations — but with hilarious results.

The Tenor characters are perfectly conceived for the puzzle pieces needed to pull off a great farce. There is an opportunistic promoter, his stooge, a pompous star with a flamboyant wife and a collection of groupies — including ladies parading in vintage lingerie.

The first act languishes some in its setup. The maestro arrives late and mistakenly takes a double dose of tranquilizers, leaving his local handlers to conclude that he’s done himself in after a tiff with his wife. Scrambling to save the evening, exploitive Henry, general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, convinces his assistant, opera-singing wannabee Max, to wear the clown costume and sing the part.

While some of the antics are repetitive, the sheer talent and synergy of the ensemble make up for the drag. Physicality, choreography and razor-sharp timing boost this production’s entertainment value. It’s a hoot!

Standouts

Funky newcomer Michael Green is a standout as Max, moving with amazing agility as he navigates the small stage in dual personas as the comic deceptions deepen. Shy and unassuming, Max is a reluctant stand-in for the famed tenor — until his pipes seduce the house with operatic snippets in seemingly perfect Italian.

Alex Baker (Tito) is the exact opposite of Max: a tall, confident and pampered star. With his thundering voice and commanding presence, Baker portrays Tito with maximum flair. As the first act closes, Tito is emerging from his tranquilized daze, donning his clown costume and poised as the wild card in the fiasco to follow.

Act Two unearths the play’s best comic antics as the twin Titos find themselves entertaining adoring ladies with ulterior motives while concealing their true identities under the clown costumes. The action is more farcical as Baker and Green look so different — even in duplicate costumes — underscoring how people really see what they want to believe.

Tenor’s actors are well-synched to meet the storyline’s comic momentum. Well-known to Funky patrons, Christina Vilgiate plays the pretentious Julia with vocal and visual perfection.  Strutting and scheming in her silvery gown, she maintains character even without lines, projecting a larger-than-life presence as the Opera Guild’s snooty benefactor.

Sultry Maria (Meggan Hyde) is Tito’s complaining wife. Dazzling and difficult, she nails the part as the exotic (but highly toxic) flower in the mix. As Max’s love interest, the wholesome but ambitious Maggie, played with blanketed innocence by Ivy Patterson, is perfectly pouty and endearing.

Rounding out the parade of Tenor’s lavish ladies is Krysten Whearley as the opportunistic singer Diana looking for her big break.  She toys and teases with ease, slithering in and out of her red sequined evening gown with grace.

In his Funky debut, Weller Dorff is the hotel bellhop with a dry wit and a serious intent toward a close encounter with the infamous Tito. Blessed with few but impactful lines, he delivers clever and well-timed rebukes to the cheapskate Henry, played by John Longo.

The show’s crew deserve special nods in dressing the actors and the stage. From vintage gowns and hats, to hairstyles, makeup and lingerie, the show is a visual salute to an era of glamour and excess among the rich. The set’s design is simple yet functional, especially the creation of an imaginary wall in the hotel suite which plays into the slapstick choreography. While the time seems ripe for a larger stage for Funky, every show seems to embrace the intimacy and make it work.

The Funky Little Theatre Company is now in its sixth season, recently winning the Bronze for Best Theatre from the Colorado Springs Independent.