Jeffrey Weiner plays the bellhop in Lend Me A Tenor.
He followed the Yellow Brick Road and never looked back.
Jeffrey Weiner will tell you that his musical theater journey started when he was 8 years old in the choir at Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park. His voice sparked an invitation to sing with the prestigious Vienna Boys Choir, though he wasn’t able to participate at the time.
He spent three summers at Camp Tamarack in Ortonville followed by another three at Camp Tamakwa in Ontario. When Weiner heard about auditions for the Wizard of Oz at Tamakwa, he thought he’d take a stab at acting.
“You’ll never get the part of Scarecrow because the campers who always get the leads are planning to go for it,” warned Weiner’s bunk- mates.
“So, I took the challenge, and I got the part. It was a big upset,” says Weiner of Royal Oak who plays the Bellhop in Ken Ludwig’s popular farce Lend Me a Tenor at Birmingham Village Players (BVP), March 10-26.
Weiner played the Scarecrow professionally another time while on a national tour following graduation from Michigan State University, where he earned a degree in theater. But the third time truly was a charm when Weiner was in the Wizard of Oz at the Bonstelle Theatre in Detroit. It was while earning his master’s in theater at Wayne State University in 1994 that Weiner first met Russell Boyle, who plays the world-renowned Italian tenor, Tito Merelli, in BVP’s upcoming production.
The comedy Lend Me a Tenor spotlights the Cleveland Grand Opera Company in 1934, who hires Merelli to perform in a special one-night-only fundraiser. Through a series of unfortunate mishaps, Merelli takes a double-dose of tranquilizers and everyone thinks he’s dead. The hilarious farce takes place in the tenor’s Cleveland hotel suite.
“My character, the Bellhop, is a huge fan of the tenor, so I keep popping up when the audience least expects it to get the tenor’s autograph and picture,” Weiner says.
At Wayne State, Boyle understudied the Cowardly Lion, and Weiner was in the ensemble of Wizard of Oz.
“We had a riotous good time playing munchkins, winged monkeys and Kansas farm hands. But nothing compares to playing opposite Jeffrey in Lend Me a Tenor,” reminisces Boyle, a Detroit resident. “Even though we have limited interaction on stage together, Jeffrey steals the show with his creative take on the character, and I feel very fortunate to be sharing the stage with him again. It’s been an amazing opportunity to be able to bond in theatrical art-making more than 20 years later. Jeff is a mensch.”
And while Weiner’s forte is comedy, he’s only been in a handful of plays — a stark contrast to the more than 55 musicals that he’s been in over the years including as Carmen Ghia in The Producers, Barnaby in Hello, Dolly, Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Zangara in Assassins and Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.
Growing up in Farmington Hills, Weiner and his brother, David, would walk to Hillel Day School, where they attended since kindergarten, and went on to graduate from Harrison High School.
“I wouldn’t say I was the class clown, but I was definitely mischievous,” laughs Weiner, who has been a teacher with Utica Community Schools for the past 27 years, mostly with third-graders.
With his full workload as a teacher, Weiner somehow manages to perform in three shows a year. The first show post-pandemic was in Don’t Drink the Water at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak.
“Now that was a funny story,” Weiner recalls. “Here I am, a Jewish man playing a Catholic priest in the show, and the actor who played the Jewish father in the play was actually a minister in real life.”
Lend Me a Tenor runs March 10-26 at Birmingham Village Players, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit community theater. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Reserved tickets are $25. To order, call the box office at (248) 644-2075 or go to www.birminghamvillageplayers.com. The Village Players have been entertaining the community from its location at 34660 Woodward Ave. in Birmingham since 1926.