Based on a 1980s farce by Ken Ludwig, new musical Lend Me A Tenor takes over the Gielgud theatre left vacant by the early closing of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (although they seem to have left Joanna Riding behind when they left.) In Cleveland¹ in 1934, a grand hotel and opera house is expecting the arrival of Tito Merelli (Michael Matus) the famed opera star who's due to play Otello. When his wife (Riding) leaves him, Merelli appears to kill himself and so the hotel manager (Matthew Kelly) persuades his future son-in-law Max (Damian Humbley) to put on the costume and sing.
This is very much a big old-fashioned West End musical with lots of singing and dancing (including a couple of tap numbers,) bright clothes and huge impressive sets (designed by Paul Farnsworth.) The songs are likeable enough if not spectacular - Peter Sham and Brad Carroll seem aware that "Be Yourself" is their most hummable tune and have it reprised frequently. I found the first act to be a bit low on actual laughs though, and while the performances are bound to be OTT and most of the cast find the right level, Kelly's mugging was just too much for me. The second act is a big improvement though with a lot of decent setpieces; Avenue Q's Cassidy Janson is consistently fun as Kelly's daughter, intent on one last fling before accepting Max's proposal; while the undoubted showstopper is Sophie-Louise Dann's attempt to perform all of opera's leading ladies in five minutes. If you're looking for a very old-school sort of entertainment this is perfectly fine for what it is, but I wouldn't call it a must-see.
Lend Me A Tenor by Peter Sham and Brad Carroll, based on the play by Ken Ludwig is booking until the 19th of November at the Gielgud Theatre.
¹given the title I was surprised to find out both the original and the musical version are American; I don't think I've ever heard an American call $10 a "tenner" so does the pun even work?