Renee Zellweger & Bradley Cooper Hit Broadway Opening

Justin Bartha is part of the “Hangover” gang, so his buds had to show up and support him last night at his Broadway debut in “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Indeed, Bradley Cooper came and brought girlfriend Renee Zellweger, and Zach Galiafinakis was there with a date. They are loyal pals. And since Bartha is said to be dating one of the Olsen twins, both of them took center orchestra seats. Zack told me he was shocked — “I had no idea Justin could sing,” he said. Renee told me: “It’s a chance to be out with my guy,” meaning Cooper.

And so, the opening night of “Lend Me a Tenor” was star stuck from the cast including Bartha, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Jan Maxwell, and Brooke Adams (Mrs. Shalhoub). They drew the likes of Tony Roberts, Patricia Clarkson, Polly Draper and musician husband Michael Wolff and their two musician kids (aka the Naked Brothers), plus Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, Sam Rockwell, Janet McTeer, Viola Davis, Lorraine Bracco, her sister Elizabeth with husband Aidan Quinn, John Turturro, Lili Taylor, Andrea Martin, Carol Kane, Frances Sternhagen, Kenneth Cole and Maria Cuomo Cole, Jesse Eisenberg, and original cast members Tovah Feldshuh and Victor Garber. And, of course Steve Buscemi, who has a production company with “Lend Me” director Stanley Tucci.

Yes–Stanley Tucci directed “Lend Me A Tenor” fresh from his Oscar nomination in “Lovely Bones” and his excellent work in “Julie and Julia.” Forget totally today’s New York Times review– this 20th anniversary edition of “Lend Me a Tenor” is a hoot and a half, full of laughs, beautifully orchestrated and directed by Tucci. It’s a door slamming comedy, a farce set back stage at a Cleveland opera in 1934. Shalhoub and co. are hilarious. The fact that the New York Times didn’t find the production funny says a lot, frankly.

Shalhoub, LaPaglia, Adams and Maxwell are well enough known that their work precedes them. Shalhoub does so much physical business in this production that he’s already lost 16 pounds, he told me last night. “This is no work for a 56 year old,” he laughs. LaPaglia is thrilled to be free of his TV series, and back working on Broadway.

But the revelation of this “Tenor” is Justin Bartha. He’s in “The Hangover.” I remembered him, with much sadness, as Jennifer Lopez’s brother in the godawful “Gigli.” Nothing prepares you for how good he is in “Tenor.” As Max, a wannabe opera performer who suffers as Shalhoub’s opera manager’s lackey, Bartha is a one man dynamo. He’s never been on Broadway before, but he sure seems like a veteran. He’s the Broadway breakthrough performer of the season.

Maybe this is the season of audience pleasing shows–ones that the Times won’t necessarily dictate futures and so on. “Lend Me A Tenor” seemed like a hit last night, all systems go, totally fun and silly. And no one can say it isn’t packed with stars. Not only are the men terrific, but don’t miss Jan Maxwell as Maria, the shopping mad wife LaPaglia‘s tenor, and Mary Catherine Garrison as Shalhoub’s ingenue daughter.

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