Opera singer Tito Merelli, played by Tracy Ottenbreit, and his wife Maria, played by Jane Walters, get into a marital tiff in the Nanaimo Theatre Group production of Lend me a Tenor, opening on Feb. 19 at Bailey Studio. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Theatre Group stages mistaken-identity comedy

‘Lend Me a Tenor’ feature two new actors in leading roles

The Nanaimo Theatre Group is reviving a comedy that hasn’t graced its stage since the 20th century.

From Feb. 19 to March 7 the local theatre company presents Lend me a Tenor by American playwright Ken Ludwig at Bailey Studio. In the play, last staged by NTG 23 years ago, the world’s greatest opera singer accidentally takes a double dose of tranquillizers before a show and the opera manager’s assistant is persuaded to take his place.

Playing those roles are two actors in their first season with NTG: Tracy Ottenbreit as the renowned singer Tito Merelli, and David McCormick as Max, Tito’s impromptu understudy.

Ottenbreit joined NTG last year but only worked behind the scenes. He made his onstage debut in this past fall’s production of The Odd Couple.

“I was actually encouraged by the people of the theatre to give it a shot – to go from behind to in-front – and I thought, ‘Why not?’” Ottenbreit said. “So I tried out thinking, ‘At least I have the experience of trying out,’ and I got a small part.”

That experience led him to audition for Lend me a Tenor. He said he “clicked” with the character of Tito but added the role is a challenge.

“There are some serious parts, there’s some comedy, there’s singing. It’s a combination of all things terrifying, quite frankly,” Ottenbreit said.

This play is McCormick’s NTG debut. He said he’s getting back in touch with an artistic side that he “shelved” when he was younger. He said that while he’s had successful careers in technical fields, he felt unhappy and unfulfilled.

“My wife started poking at me like, ‘You’re an artist, why aren’t you doing anything?’ And so I started picking up some things again…” McCormick said. “I think I went to a karaoke or something with somebody and I was just like, ‘I need to be onstage more.’ I remembered suddenly the rush of being onstage.”

Like Ottenbreit, McCormick said taking on a lead role as a new actor has been challenging, but he said taking on challenges that may seem daunting or frightening is in his nature.

“If you’re going take on a challenge, you might as well take on something that scares you a little,” he said. “Because if you’re not, then are you really challenging yourself?”

Ottenbreit said they’ve had a lot of support from director Jan Leslie, the other “veteran actors” and the rest of the NTG team.

“Its a great group of people,” McCormick said. “I very much want to continue working with them in the future. We’ve quickly become like a family.”

WHAT’S ON … The Nanaimo Theatre Group presents Lend me a Tenor at Bailey Studio from Feb. 19 to 22, 26 to 29 and March 4 to 7 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 23 and March 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets $20, available via phone at 250-758-7224 or www.nanaimotheatregroup.ca.


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