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Lend Me a Tenor

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North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach (in Northern San Diego County) is a shimmering jewel in the crown of Southern California theater. But, even though the North Coast Rep is beginning its fourth decade as a performing company, many LA/OC theatergoers have yet to become acquainted with this longstanding troupe’s top quality productions.

Now’s the opportunity to see the group at their finest. NCR is staging  Ken Ludwig’s rollicking 1986 farce, Lend Me a Tenor, and, under Matthew Wiener’s impressively meticulous direction, it is hands-down, head-over-belly, laugh-out-loud hilarious.

An ensemble of eight nimble actors milk what seems to be every double entendre, twisted meaning, and mischievous misunderstanding imaginable from Ludwig’s air-tight farcical formula. As you may have surmised by the play’s title, the plot is built around an opera singer. He’s an exquisite star performer in this most grand of performance arts, and, he has the most rarefied of vocal registers: He is a tenor, after all.

His name is Tito Merelli, but in the world of international opera, he’s known as “Il Stupendo.” Tito has agreed to sing the lead role in Verdi’s Otello. The gig is a mere fundraiser for the minor league Cleveland Opera Company, and Tito has performed as Otello in opera houses around the world; he even has his own costumes for the role (two of them, just in case). Therefore, this engagement should be less than challenging, right? Wrong!

Havoc ensues when Tito’s hot-tempered wife, Maria, mistakenly takes Maggie—an innocent autograph-hound and daughter to the Opera’s general manager—as Tito’s amorous liaison. Maria flees from the presumably adulterous Tito, leaving a “Dear John” missive for him, which is misinterpreted as a suicide note.

In an attempt to relax the troubled Tito, he is unintentionally given a double dosage of tranquilizing drugs, which he washes down with a vintage bottle of vino, courtesy of Max—an assistant to General Manager Saunders and Maggie’s actual love interest. When Tito becomes limply incapacitated due to over inebriation, he is assumed to be dead by the panicked Max and Saunders. Nevertheless, the show must go on. So Saunders has a brainstorm: Max—a wannabe Opera singer himself—should assume Tito’s identity and perform as Otello.

With impeccable comic timing and crisp characterizations, this cast—Ted Barton as Saunders; Christopher M. Williams as Max; Jessica John as Maria; Courtney Corey as Maggie; Jill Drexler as Julia; Jacque Wilke as Diana; Albert Park as The Bellhop; and, the formidable Bernard X. Kopsho as Tito— hits all the right comedic notes.

What’s more, Marty Burnett’s scenic design; John Finkbiner’s scenic art; Matt Novotny’s lighting ; Chris Luessmann’s sound design; Sonia Elizabeth Lerner’s costumes (Tenor is set in 1934, and the clothes are pitch-perfect); and   Peter Herman’s hair and wig stylings all make this Tenor a showpiece of a show, emblematic of North Coast Rep’s illustrious theatrical capabilities.

“Lend Me a Tenor” continues at the North Coast Repertory Theatre—987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach—through October 2. Show times are Thursday – Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations dial (858) 481 – 1055. For online ticketing and further information, visit      










Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.