The narrator, “Man in Chair,” perhaps best articulated the point of Musical Theatre: at the end of the day, the goal of (most) musicals is to make you happy. And Monday’s performance of The Drowsy Chaperone did just that. In spite of a few technical glitches, The Drowsy Chaperone, was charming, hilarious, and an absolutely wonderful reminder of just how fun musicals can be.
The Drowsy Chaperone is conveyed through the classic story within a story base. The delightfully quippy, “Man in Chair”, portrayed adeptly by Elliot Douglas, guides us through listening to a record of one of his favorite 1920s musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” By including this narrator, the show itself is able to be acutely self-aware, and Douglas impressed with his biting comedic delivery. The premise of this (fictional) musical is one based on familiar tropes found in older musicals. A young actress, Janet van de Graaf, is giving up her lavish lifestyle as a Broadway starlet, in order to marry the wealthy oil tycoon Robert Martin. One the day of their wedding, over the course of a series of amusingly ridiculous musical numbers, we are introduced to the rest of the cast of characters, based on traditional stereotypes such as the dry-witted, longsuffering butler, “Underling,” the ditzy flapper, “Kitty,” and two bumbling Mob thugs.
As such, one expects for these stereotypes to be conveyed as characters larger than life. In some cases, this was done with aplomb, such as with over-the-top ladies man, Adolpho. Portrayed beautifully by Connor Powell, he kept the audience in hysterics throughout the evening. Stephanie Boyle also delighted as Janet’s drunken Chaperone. Both her and Powell also demonstrated impressive sets of vocals. Additionally, Christopher Miller, playing George, adorably displayed serious triple threat skills. By contrast, a few other characters underwhelmed.
With regards to singing, on the whole, the cast delivered solid musical performances. Leading lady Emma Seckel was a stunning vocal powerhouse, bringing ‘it’ even when the lyrics she was given were “Monkey, Monkey, Monkey.” Her on-stage partner, Matthew Colley, also lent a beautiful voice to the bumbling Robert.
There is something remarkable about having a full, live orchestra accompanying a musical that makes it all the more special. While the orchestra did a beautiful job, unfortunately, as an avid fan of musicals, it was distracting when the on-stage singers and off-stage orchestra fell out of time with one another. This could have been prevented had the two been better able to see/hear one another. This leads to the other main issues of the production, most of them technical. Normally little lighting issues can be overlooked, if they don’t distract from the whole of the performance. But, as a major part of the plot is driven by the switching between what is happening in the fake musical and in the narrator’s apartment, delayed cues felt incredibly awkward. Additionally, technicians were slow in turning the microphones on and off. I would have loved to hear more of Ruth Kroch as the Aviatrix’s beautiful voice.
That being said, at the end of the day, director Kate Kitchens, and the rest of the production team should be pleased with the show they pulled off. The set was beautifully done, with a zany black and white floor and art deco panels cleverly concealing a Murphy bed for smooth set transitions. Props were well used, and, even when they unintentionally malfunctioned, the actors involved handled these obstacles with comedic grace. It should also be mentioned that the controversial bit of racism for which this musical is infamous was handled as delicately as possible.
“Man in Chair” loves musicals as a form of escapism, and The Drowsy Chapereone succeeding in being that, delivering a piece of entertaining, fluffy fun, despite a number of distracting issues.
All photos provided by Jamie Jones