Lend Me a Tenor Essay - Critical Essays

Ken Ludwig

Critical Context

Besides writing plays, Ken Ludwig is also an entertainment lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area. Although only a part-time playwright, he established quite a repertory in little more than a decade. His body of work includes Moon over Buffalo (pr., pb. 1996), Sullivan and Gilbert: A Play with Music (pr. 1983, pb. 1988), and the books for two musicals: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (pr. 2001) and Crazy for You (pr. 1991), the latter of which was conceived by him and won three Tony Awards for best musical, costume designer, and choreography. Lend Me a Tenor is commonly considered his best nonmusical work. Its 1986 London production was nominated for the Olivier Award, and its 1989 Broadway production was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including best play, and won two of the awards, one for best actor and the other for best director.

Ludwig has noted that he derives some inspiration from the classics, such as William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (pr. c. 1598-1599, pb. 1600), and is particularly interested in reinventing classic devices for a modern audience. This is not to say that he patterns his plays after specific works, rather that he uses the devices that are common to comedy and farce. In fact, Ludwig’s works all seem to derive some inspiration from the past, from literary and musical genres and styles to performers and their reputations.

The play is particularly useful for teaching comical devices and farce for advanced acting students, who have access to functional doors in the classroom. It breaks down nicely into scenes with two to four people, which facilitates scene study.