Sussex Academy to feature two casts in ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ Nov. 9-11

November 5, 2017

Next week, Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 9 to 11, Sussex Academy High School will put a twist on its first show of the school year - there are two casts! With an A and B cast each performing Ken Ludwig's hysterical farce “Lend Me A Tenor,” this is the school's first multi-cast production.

The school's B Cast will open the weekend's showings Thursday, with a 7 p.m. performance; the A Cast will perform Friday at 7; and each cast will offer a performance Saturday, with the B Cast performing at 1 p.m., and the A Cast closing the run with a show at 7 p.m.

“Lend Me A Tenor” is a full-force comedy by Ken Ludwig about the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, which has just hired world-renowned tenor Tito Merelli (played by seniors Julio Tijerina and Tony Harrison) to play Otello. Through a set of crazy circumstances, Tito passes out after unwittingly mixing wine with a large dose of pills. Believing that the divo is dead, excitable opera manager Saunders (senior Jared Browne and junior Connor Hall) convinces his hapless assistant Max (junior Ellyes Baghouli and senior Jamie Riddle) to suit up as the Moor and replace Merelli. Little do they know, however, that the real Tito awakes and also dresses for the show. As the confusion of having two Otellos intensifies, the tenor's jealous wife (junior Kyra Cutsail and senior McKinsey Zepp), his ambitious female co-star (sophomore Alli Dayton and junior Sarah Hearn), Max's young girlfriend (sophomores Elli Oechsler and Sydney Adamcik), and the flirtatious head of the opera guild (senior Delaney Cinnamon and junior Nevada Scott) are on the scene fighting - sometimes literally - for the star's attention. Add an opera-obsessed Bellhop into the mix (freshmen Tess DeBastiani and Zach Stutzman), and you have a farce in its purest form.

Of course, featuring two casts, especially in such a raucous show, means twice the rehearsals, so Director Erin Bobby combined the two casts for staging rehearsals before splitting them for their own running rehearsals.

"It really functions as two different casts," explained Cinnamon, who also helped Bobby as a student director. "It really doesn't matter that we are doing the same show. I'm in the 'A' cast and we usually went first during staging rehearsals, but one time B cast went first, so I actually got to watch the staging process, and I thought it was interesting watching the show come together."

Senior Stage Manager Lauren Stanton also believes that the rehearsing of two casts has been interesting.

"It's interesting because you get to see the different characters and the different personas they adopt," she said.

Not only will the productions feature many veteran actors from previous productions like “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Crucible,” freshmen Stutzman and DeBastiani have also joined the ranks of the drama department, this being their first high school production.

"At first, being in a high school production as a freshman was very intimidating because the rest of the cast consisted of upperclassmen," admits DeBastiani. "However, they were really nice and supportive. Overall, my experience was really fun and memorable, and I know it's going to be a great show."

Aside from DeBastiani and Stutzman, seven of the other actors have found themselves in bigger roles than those they've had in the past. Baghouli is one of them. His first role with the school was the supporting role of Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast,” so Max is his first leading role.

"Playing a leading character has many more challenges than that of a supporting one," Baghouli asserts. "A significant obstacle is the amount of content that has to be learned In addition, having a bigger impact on the story of a show means that the evolution of the character must be present. This is something I have not had to work with on a large scale, making it an interesting learning experience."

While featuring two casts has allowed twice the number of students to perform, Bobby maintains that this is not the new norm.

"The show and the group have to be right," she insists. "You can't have two casts for a large, complex show, and you certainly can't do it without a pool of talented and willing young actors."

Stutzman, for one, exclaims that he has enjoyed the opportunity to perform in a dual-cast show.

"Having two casts has been a really positive experience," he said. "We have a sort of friendly rivalry, but at the end of the day, we are still all friends and work together to lift each other higher."

Tickets are available at the door and cost $10 for adults and $5 for students. Parental discretion is advised due to some language and innuendo in the show. Sussex Academy is located at 21150 Airport Road in Georgetown.