Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Provenance of "Lend Me a Tenor"

Posted by Bruce Miller
In the early 1980s, a British stage manager named Denise Deegan wrote a comedy entitled Daisy Pulls It Off. It was a parody of wholesome adventure stories, and portrayed life in a 1920s British girls boarding school. A little known stage director named David Gilmore read it, and convinced his colleague, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who had just opened his early megahit, Cats, to produce Daisy (pictured above and to the left) in London's West End. The resulting production was a huge hit, running at the Gielgud Theatre (then named the Globe) from April 1983 to February 1986.

At the same time, a little known D. C. lawyer named Ken Ludwig (Harvard Law School, Class of '75) wrote a comedy entitled Opera Buffa. It debuted at the American Stage Festival, a small summer theatre in New Hampshire, receiving considerable local acclaim. Somehow, word of the fledgling comedy travelled to Gilmore and Lloyd Webber in London. They were looking for a show to follow Daisy Pulls It Off on London's West End. They requested and read a perusal copy of the Opera Buffa script, loved it, and convinced Ludwig to change his new play's title to Lend Me a Tenor. Gilmore and Lloyd Webber opened the World Premiere of Lend Me a Tenor at the Gielgud in March 1986, only three weeks after Daisy closed.

Lend Me a Tenor was an instant smash. It ran ten months on the West End and was nominated as Comedy of the Year in the Olivier Awards. In 1989 it opened on Broadway, starring Philip Bosco and Victor Garber, earning seven Tony nominations and two wins. Two decades later, Tenor was revived on Broadway starring Tony Shalhoub and Justin Bartha. Once again it knocked 'em dead, earning kudos (and Tony nominations) for its classic hilarity.

Today, Tenor has been performed in 30 nations with translations into 20 languages, becoming one of the favorite comedies of the 20th Century.
--Bruce Miller

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