Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor

by  Ken Ludwig

Full Length Play, Comedy  /  4m, 4f

This night in September of 1934 is the biggest in the history of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. World-famous tenor Tito Morelli is to perform as Otello, his greatest role, at the gala season opener.

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Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor

Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor

by  Ken Ludwig

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    4m, 4f
  • Duration


    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre


  • Accolades


    Tony, From Broadway
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Cutting Approved for Competition
    • UIL Approved
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Pre-Teen (Age 11 - 13)
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

Lend Me a Tenor is set in September 1934. Saunders, the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, is primed to welcome world-famous Tito Morelli, known as Il Stupendo, the greatest tenor of his generation, to appear for one night only as Otello. The star arrives late and, through a hilarious series of mishaps, is given a double dose of tranquilizers and passes out. His pulse is so low that Saunders and his assistant, Max, believe he’s dead. In a frantic attempt to salvage the evening, Saunders persuades Max to get into Morelli’s Otello costume and fool the audience into thinking he’s Il Stupendo. Max succeeds admirably, but Morelli comes to and gets into his other costume, ready to perform. Now two Otellos are running around in costume and two women are running around in lingerie, each thinking she is with Il Stupendo. A sensation on Broadway and in London’s West End, this madcap, screwball comedy is guaranteed to leave audiences teary-eyed with laughter.

A Note to Producers from Ken Ludwig:
I am perfectly happy if you and your actors decide not use the usual Othello makeup in Lend Me A Tenor. The important thing is that Tito is playing a hero, and the play will work perfectly well if Tito wears a very distinctive costume and distinctive facial hair that Max can then imitate. If Max is shorter than Tito (which is often the case in the productions that I've seen) Max can where lifts in his boots to make himself taller. It is Max's change in stature and the nature of his gestures and confidence that fuels the comedy and makes the deception successful. When Max tries to impersonate Tito, he is emulating everything about the man that he admires so greatly: Tito's size, his big heart, and his grandeur as an opera star. The crux of the play is that Max is a shy soul who admires Tito, and when he gets the chance of a lifetime to emulate his hero in front of an adoring audience - and in front of the woman he loves - he takes the bit in his teeth, shows the world that there is more inside him than meets the eye, and changes his life.

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  • Winner! 3 Tony® Awards and 4 Drama Desk Awards
    Nominee! 2010 Tony® Award, Best Revival of a Play


“A remarkable piece of theatre […] a masterpiece […] Author Ken Ludwig has verve, a sound grasp of plot mechanics and a rare ability to couple high art with low comedy.” - The London Times

“One of two great farces by a living writer.” - The New York Times

"Ken Ludwig's 1989 Tony-winning comedy is one of only two classic farces by a living playwright, the other being Michael Frayn's frenetic Noises Off.” - New York Daily News

“The most inventive, original farce in a long time […]” - Punch

“A furiously paced comedy with more than a touch of the Marx Brothers […] A marvelous combination of wonderful farcical moments and funny lines.” - Time Out New York

“Hilariously over the top.” - The Manchester Guardian

“Fills the theatre with the sound of laughter.” - The Sunday Express

“Free flowing honest-to-goodness unforced farce.” - New York Magazine

“It’s hilarious […] The funniest show on Broadway.” - WNEW

"A rollercoaster of fun for everybody in the building […] a solid, constantly accelerating snowball of a comedy!" - Phoenix News Times

“The Big Winner!” - New York Daily News

"Non-stop laughter." - Variety

"Uproarious! Hysterical!" - USA Today

"A rib-tickling comedy." - The New York Post

"Screamingly funny!" - CBS Radio

"[A] three-ring circus of chaos involving celebrity worship, backstage shenanigans and mistaken identities." - Desert News

"One of the funniest comedies ever written. Ken Ludwig has written a crackpot comedy worthy of comic masters Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks." - Glendale Theater Examiner


  • Meet The Playwright: Ken Ludwig
More videos +


Betrayal, Love


Performing Groups

  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Large Stage


  • No Special Cautions

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $125 per performance
  • Optional Music/Media Fee: $15 per performance



  • Time Period: 1930s
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting:

    September 1934 in the Cleveland Hotel suite reserved for Tito Morelli, Il Stupendo, the greatest tenor of his generation.

  • Additional Features: Physical Comedy
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus Size: Large


4m, 4f

MAX - assistant to Saunders
MAGGIE - Max's girlfriend
SAUNDERS - Maggie's father, General Manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company
TITO MERELLI - a world-famous tenor, known also to his fans as Il Stupendo
MARIA - Tito's wife
BELLHOP - a bellhop
DIANA - a soprano
JULIA - Chairman of the Opera Guild

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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Non-Traditional casting
  • Multicultural casting
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)
  • Parts for Senior Actors


Rehearsal Resources

Music Material Rental Packages Glyphs / UI / Tooltip

Full Package

Optional performance tracks available:

#1: "La Donna e Mobile" (pg 11)
#2: "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" (pg 45)
#3: "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" (pg 52)
#4: "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" (pg 79)
#5: "Gia nelle note densa" (pg 81)
#6: "Da quell di che t'incontrai" (pg 114)
#7: Final orchestral moment in Act I of "Otello" (pg 127)
Songs on pgs 28/9, pg 115, and pg 43 are all to be performed a capella. 

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Ken Ludwig

Ken Ludwig is a two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright who has written over 26 plays and musicals, including 6 shows on Broadway and 7 in London's West End. His first Broadway play, Lend Me A Tenor, won two Tony Awards and was called "one of the classic comedies of the 20th century” by The Washington Post. His othe ...

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Lend Me a Tenor was first presented at the American Stage Festival, Milford, New Hampshire on August 1, 1985. It was directed by Larry Carpenter.

The play was subsequently presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber for The Really Useful Company at the Globe Theatre, London on March 6, 1986. It was directed by David Gilmore

The play was first presented in New York City on March 2, 1989 at the Royale Theater by Martin Starger and The Really Useful Theater Company, directed by Jerry Zaks.

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