Friday, January 10, 2020

The Drowsy Chaperone

Aldolpho (Brian McCann), seduces The Drowsy Chaperone (Chris Cay Stewart) as,
in Davis Musical Theatre Company's musical comedy production,
“The Drowsy Chaperone,” on stage through Jan. 26 at the Jean Henderson Performing Arts Center.

The most celebrated musical of the 2006 Broadway season, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a completely original musical comedy, opened this week at the Davis Musical Theatre Company, celebrating its 35th year of musicals. The show is directed and choreographed by Kyle Jackson, also listed as co-musical director.

The show had its beginnings in 1997 when several friends created a spoof of old musicals for a stag party. It was so successful that it was reshaped for a theatrical performance and presented at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Over several versions, it finally opened on Broadway in May of 2006, where it won five Tony awards.

The character of “Man in Chair” opens the show, sitting in the dark, musing about his feelings for theater. He thinks of his favorite show, the 1928 fictional “The Drowsy Chaperone” and pulls out the original cast recording to play it for the audience. He reads, “Mix-ups, mayhem and a gay wedding,” then laughs “of course the phrase ‘gay wedding’ has a different meaning now. But back then it just meant ‘fun’ and that’s all this is — fun,”

As the music plays, the characters appear on stage, lights come up on the set, and the show begins, with Man in Chair providing a running commentary on the plot, the characters, and the actors who played them.

This show is a salute to those old 1920s musicals that were light on plot and heavy on comedy.
DMTC has the perfect cast to bring this show to life. Scott Minor as “Man in Chair” is wonderful. Just the kind of lonely theater queen you’d imagine. He is particularly good when the attention is on other parts of the stage and he is supposedly just listening to his record. His facial expressions are spot on.

Fans of DMTC’s Mary Young must see her turn as Mrs. Tottendale, the eccentric widow who is hosting the wedding of starlet Janet van de Graaff (Aimee Rose Santone) and Robert Martin (A.J. Rooney). Neither of them is completely certain they are ready for marriage.

Rooney has a great show-stopping tap number, “Cold Feets,” danced with his best man George (Hugo Figueroa)

Santone has her own turn to shine in “Show Off,” where Janet explains to the press, and others assembled, why she is giving up the stage for good. “I don’t want to show off no more,” all the while showing off for the cameras.

Steve Isaacson is Feldzieg, the harried producer of Janet’s show, who hired Adolpho (Brian McCann), a Latin lover, to discourage Janet from giving up the stage. McCann’s performance is over-the-top and hilarious, especially when he mistakes the Chaperone (Chris Cay Stewart) for the bride. Stewart is an Ethel Merman-like belter whose Chaperone is fond of her little flask and who gives Janet no real advice about whether or not to marry Robert, but merely explains how she has gotten through life by “stumbling along.”

Joe Alkire is great fun as Underling, the butler, who serves everyone in this Prohibition-era comedy “ice water,” which results in a very funny scene between himself and Mrs. Tottendale.

Andrea Bourquin is delightful as Kitty, the chorine with her eye on the prize, to be a leading lady if she gets her shot when Janet leaves the show. She has some of the most dazzling costumes (thanks to costumer Jean Henderson).

Tomas Eredia and Anna Cutshall are gangsters disguised as bakers sent to threaten Feldzieg if he is unsuccessful in thwarting Janet’s wedding plans, but it seems the worst they can do is exchange a lot of puns about baking.

Act 2 begins with a decidedly unpolitically correct number “Message from a Nightingale,” for which Man in Chair apologizes because it’s actually from a different musical. Be prepared for lyrics like “What is it about Asians that fascinates Caucasians … is it the won ton? The egg rolls? The rice?” It is a funny, if mildly offensive, take on “The King and I.”

Marika Rogers has a small, but pivotal role as Trix, the aviatrix, at the end of the show, with an impressive special effect.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a funny bit of escapist theater, which will be as enjoyable to the audience as it seems to be to the cast.

No comments: