Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 11, 2023

Barnstormers set stage for a season of laughs

By NATALIE BERKMAN | September 14, 2008

Eight characters, six doors, two tenors and one adorable comedy - Lend Me a Tenor was a great time for everyone.

Last weekend, the JHU Barnstormers had three performances of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor that had audiences laughing all night. Don't be fooled by the humorous bios in the program and the fact that we're only a week into the school year: The Barnstormers put on an enjoyable show.

"This play is all about fun," said Barnstormers President Bill Fuller, a senior at Hopkins and director of the production. "I think it's just a hilarious little show." Of course, this "hilarious little show" is also a Tony Award-winning play that has appeared all over the world, but it really is just good fun.

Lend Me a Tenor revolves around an extraordinary tenor, Tito Merelli (senior Mike Wills), who comes to Cleveland for his American debut in the opera Otello. However, when Merelli seems unable to perform, Saunders (junior David Santare), the general manager, tells his assistant Max (sophomore Adam Reiffen) to get him on stage no matter what. Meanwhile, Saunders's daughter Maggie (junior Carol Santoro) desperately wants to meet Merelli, so she hides in his closet.

When Merelli's wife (junior Vanna Dela Cruz) discovers Maggie in the closet and believes her to be her husband's mistress, she decides to leave Merelli. The plot unfolds from there, revealing a wealth of twists and surprises.

In Lend Me a Tenor, every comedic ploy is used. There is slapstick comedy from the overzealous Saunders, mistaken identity when Max must impersonate the opera star, plot twists and more.

At times, the show resembled a Scooby Doo cartoon, with characters going in and out of different doors, disguising themselves and running into one another. This type of humor must work, because the audience never stopped laughing! Even after the final bow, each cast member rushed to a different door, but there were more cast members than doors, so the gag continued all the way to the end.

Even though the plot centers around an opera star and the word "tenor" is in the title, you don't need to be an opera-lover to enjoy the story. Lend Me a Tenor is funny because of the witty lines, plot twists and situations. The music is only secondary. Obviously, Reiffin and Wills aren't professional opera singers. The famous Tito Merelli never actually sings a note. Max sings a little, after having a "lesson" with Merelli, but it is highly unlikely that he could pass as a professionally-trained tenor. Thankfully, that doesn't really matter as far as the show is concerned.

As a special treat, before the show, the campus sketch comedy group Throat Culture performed two skits. The skits were entirely unrelated to the play, but they were funny. In the first, a couple was on a date - kind of.

There is an extra person with them, enslaved because he couldn't fit eight marshmallows into his mouth at once. In the second, two roommates argued over pizza. One always ordered cheese pizza because he saw his roommate eat it at freshman orientation and the second was getting tired of cheese pizza all the time.

Both skits were pretty absurd but still amusing. The sadistic person whipping an average (but unlucky) student was definitely interesting to watch, and when his girlfriend couldn't take it anymore, he enslaved her by once again using the marshmallow ploy. It was crazy enough to be funny, but the second skit was less exciting. Overall, the Throat Culture performance wasn't as funny as Lend Me a Tenor, but it was a nice way to warm up the audience for the main performance.

The Barnstormers are the oldest theater group on campus, and they have a fascinating history. According to their Web site (, their "troupe has been comprised of many different people (one U.S. president ... a famous film director ... an accused perjurer ... a Miss America contestant ... )." Every year, they put on six productions, two of which are professionally directed. This was the first production of the year: rehearsals began in late July and toward the beginning of the semester, lasted about six hours a day.

"It's been really intense," Fuller said, but the work certainly paid off. Lend Me a Tenor was cute, clever, witty and a great demonstration of what the Barnstormers can do on stage.

From the joke bios in the program to their informative Web site riddled with quick bits of humor, to their performances that are fun for the actors and the audience members, the Barnstormers are really just a lot of fun.

Those who missed Lend Me a Tenor have five more chances to see Barnstormers productions, so continue to check the News-Letter and the group's Web site ( for more information.

Have a tip or story idea?
Let us know!

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.