'Lend Me A Tenor' returns to McKeesport Little Theater

Randy Berner as Tito and Nick Mitchell as Max share a toast in a scene from McKeesport Little Theater's production of 'Lend Me a Tenor.' Norma Kutscher|Daily News
Randy Berner as Tito and Nick Mitchell as Max share a toast in a scene from McKeesport Little Theater's production of 'Lend Me a Tenor.' Norma Kutscher|Daily News
| Friday, March 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

When the curtain goes up on McKeesport Little Theater's latest production, theater-goers may think they are attending an opera performance. But don't put too much into a name.

In this case, “Lend Me A Tenor.” If you think it's about an opera, you would be right — in a manner of speaking.

Describing the show, which opens on Friday night, director Cory Sigler said, “It's about an opera company that has a famous opera singer coming to perform ‘Otello' and everyone is very excited, especially the producer, who thinks Tito Merelli will bring in a lot of money for the opera company. And the women are excited because they all want to meet him.”

When he and his wife arrive, he's sick to his stomach and they have an argument. He takes some sleeping pills and goes to sleep. Showtime is quickly approaching and he is still out, so the company's general manager, Saunders, convinces his assistant Max to impersonate the singer. Tito wakes up just as the show is beginning and that's when things begin to go awry and mistaken identities take center stage — even with the love story subplot.

“This is a very, very fun show,” Sigler said. “It's one of the funniest shows I've ever done.”

He said the show is “classic slapstick comedy” mixed with “classic mistaken identity.”

The stage is set up like two rooms so the audience can see what's going on in each, although the characters are clueless about the activity in the other room.

“That makes it harder to direct because there are some things that you would normally do that you can't because there is a ‘wall' separating the two rooms,” Sigler said.

He praised set builder George Hart for his efforts with “Lend Me A Tenor.”

“This is a very complicated set. We have the two rooms and a bedroom and we have the doorway built up off the stage, which is something I don't think we've ever had before,” Sigler said. “I gave him my set design and he did it and was done a week earlier than we expected.”

Sigler is no stranger to directing the show. Ten years ago he directed “Tenor” for McKeesport Little Theater.

“I'm very honored that McKeesport Little Theater gave me a chance to direct this show again,” he said, noting only one performer is returning from that cast of a decade ago.

Although the performers are new, he said there is a special bond that was evident early on in rehearsals.

“We have a phenomenal cast. Everything clicked really early. We were two weeks ahead of schedule and that's because we have such an exceptional cast. They picked up their lines and blocking very quickly. I actually gave them some time off because I didn't want them to over-rehearse,” the director explained.

With the set and rehearsals coming together so well, Sigler said, “This show was meant to be done in this time slot with these actors. It's been amazing.”

Although he's wearing the director's hat for this production, Sigler started out as an actor but was sidelined when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, it didn't keep him from the theater. He turned to behind-the-scenes work.

His symptoms left him confined to a wheelchair, but new medication has enabled him to walk with the assistance of a cane.

“When I was in the chair, I couldn't interact with the actors,” Sigler said. “But now I can get up on stage and work with them on scenes.”

Sigler recently starred in MLT's production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” in which he played Man in the Chair, and he's appeared in some commercials. He said he feels at home at the McKeesport theater — he has been doing shows there since he was 15, which is nearly half his life.

There are several shows he would like to direct including “Boeing-Boeing,” “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” (his favorite show, which he has directed in the past), and “Civil War.”

Reflecting on the MLT production, Sigler said, “This is a very funny show and will take people out of whatever they are going through for a couple of hours. It will also make you realize that you don't know what you have until you think it's not there anymore. This is just a great show.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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