White Rock Players Club revisits Paris in the 1930s – scene of last June’s production of Ninotchka – in its latest production.
But that’s not the only trace of deja vu in A Comedy of Tenors, the Ken Ludwig farce which opens for previews Feb. 6 at the Coast Capital Playhouse.
For director (and local drama instructor) Julianne Christie and one of her leads – Dann Wilhelm (Robin Hood and the SkyTrain of Doom) – it’s a return to a mythical France and the door-slamming territory they explored in Don’t Dress For Dinner last February.
“It’s really exciting – the playhouse has just had an overhaul and it’s great to be the first production to use the new lighting system,” Christie enthused.
Theatregoers with even longer memories will recall the 2012 WRPC production of Ludwig’s Lend Me A Tenor – also a 1930s-set farce – concerning opera producer Henry Saunders and his assistant Max, and their frenzied attempts to rescue a doomed Cleveland, Ohio production starring hot-headed, womanizing Italian tenor Tito Morelli.
A Comedy of Tenors is Ludwig’s sequel, transporting most of the key characters to Paris for another round of European accents, bedroom antics, and general mayhem.
Welcome news is that three actors from the 2012 production of Tenor are returning for the new show – past club president Fred Partridge is back as the wily Saunders; Launi Bowie reprises Merelli’s volatile, jealous wife Maria, while Jackie Block, formerly the ambitious, seductive soprano Diana, is now the ambitious, seductive Russian soprano Tatiana.
“I’m having so much fun working with Fred – last year he was my boss, and now I get to tell him what to do,” Christie laughed. “He’s really allowing me to open him up to a new realm of comedy.
“Launi is beautiful and fabulous to watch; Jackie is our blonde bombshell – she’s having a great time and her instincts are really great.”
Also in the cast are an emerging personality on the White Rock theatre scene, Adrian Shaffer (recently seen as Nurse Kelly in Harvey, and Gilbert Whitehand in Robin Hood), as Merelli’s daughter, Mimi, and newcomer Tanner Nelson as young American tenor, Carlo Nucci.
“Adrian is funny and having a great time learning about a new part of her craft – she has beautiful instincts and is jumping in feet-first,” Christie said, adding that she is well-paired on stage with Nelson.
“When we were doing Don’t Dress For Dinner my husband and I met Tanner, who was our bartender at The Wooden Spoon. He ended up taking one of my master classes and just knocked it out of the park – he’s funny and brilliantly smart.”
The hapless Max (Wilhelm) was revealed to be a singing sensation by the end of Tenor, and now Saunders must help keep his former assistant (now also his son-in-law) focused on delivering a stellar performance in Paris.
“Dann’s our answer man – there’s usually a straight-man in a farce, although I don’t let anyone play it absolutely straight – I think there’s a little bit of craziness in everybody,” said Christie.
Meanwhile, the tempestuous tantrums of Merelli (played in this production by Jacques Lalonde) and Maria, and a clandestine love affair between Mimi and Carlo, ensure that nothing goes smoothly.
“Tito is feeling his age a bit and Jacques is amazing at showing us that. He’s a brilliant actor and a great comedian, and just so darned talented.”
A Comedy of Tenors runs at the playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd., until Feb. 23, with Wednesday to Saturday evening performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 (most shows $22, students and seniors $19).
There will be a gala opening Feb. 8, starting at 7 p.m. (show at 8 p.m.).
For more information, visit whiterockplayers.ca or call the box office at 604-536-7535.