The Drowsy Chaperone
Review by: Terry Rymer (NODA Rep East Dist 6)
From the outset as a seemingly marginally ‘disturbed audience member gets up and in darkness moves toward the stage (Security risk apart!), we become aware that all is not what it seems. Indeed we are to be introduced to the ‘Man in Chair’ (Jason Lambert) who is to be the focal point and modus operandi for the whole piece. His seemingly isolated life, dominated by his love, nay passion, for this long past show and its characters is an obsession. One to which we are introduced via his prized possession, the vinyl LP of the show. This is cleverly interwoven with an intriguing plot with many diverse characters; introduced by ‘Man in Chair’ who is the true star of the proceedings. His constant presence and interjections provide the true comedy of the situation which ostensibly is in his imagination…or is it!? Jason played this to perfection with never a faltering moment, his comedic timing demanding total concentration whilst on stage throughout. His persona was real but never allowed to upstage, (take a personal bow!).
Now we had the, not unusual, shenanigans of ‘on/off’ marriages with Janet Van DE Graaf (Natasha Bird) whose effervescent personality was a joy to behold as she ponders her forthcoming marriage to Robert Martin aka Percy Hyman (Daniel Hughes), he of the ego and personal belief that he was too good to resist. This pair undoubtedly deserved each other and showed excellent perhaps duplicitous lovers doubts throughout. This was compounded by the less than vigilant attentions of the lady of the title, the ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ (Debbie Lambert) who, with the everlasting drink in her hand and eye for an opportunity, provides a diversion for Aldolpho (Tommy McGee) who mistakenly attempts to seduce her as the would be bride. This was a ‘coupling’ made in heaven with the hilarious, outrageous and self promoting style of the stereotyped Italian lothario taking full advantage of the ‘not unwilling’ charms of our titled heroin! These two were, it seems, made for each other to the annoyance of the impressive impressario Mr Feldzieg (John Hammond), who had despatched Aldolpho to attempt to prevent the Marriage of Janet De G, who was giving up her star role in his show, to marry Robert. He perhaps needed to be more of the baddy of the piece as clearly Aldolpho was to become an audience pleasing favourite! Feldziegs attempts to gently rebuff the ever willing wannabe Kitty (Jayne Andrew) as the nicely portrayed air-head actress, were doomed to failure. There were other characters to add some gravitas to the proceedings Mrs Tottendale (Sarah Cook) the marriage party venue host with an unwitting Butler, Underling (Peter Simmon) offering some excellent vocal and comedic interludes especially the ‘Iced Water’ moment. We had a suitably incompetent Best Man George (Baden Aldridge) who could not be trusted with arranging the vicar for the ceremony and last minute arrival of Trix the Aviator (Emily Holt) arriving in style in the 1920’s Byplane…(home made ?) She is then ‘persuaded’ by George, that her powers as captain are appropriate to carry out the wedding ceremonies, as by now all is resolved and Janet will marry Robert, and ‘surprise!’ Aldopho and the the Drowsy Chaperone are tying the knot. Plus other guests and even Kitty has got her man! Just to say how we enjoyed the Gangsters (Alice Cushing and Daisy Tyrrell-Kent) as they voiced their retribution working and singing in excellent harmony…Indeed the musical numbers were outstanding and well supported by the attentive ensemble of Maids and Butlers, all worthy of a better titled show…No matter, this was a most entertaining musical which perhaps deserves a higher profile and WLOG can be assured they did it justice and indeed moved to an unexpected grand finale when ‘Man in Chair’ proved to be a little more ‘engaged’ than he expected! He was the real star! Great entertainment….
Company Show Report
A standing ovation brought to an end an amazing week which started well and just got better and better! Opening Night came and went in a blur but, lifted by the applause of an appreciative audience, we looked forward with renewed confidence to an excellent week's run - confidence which was born out by the excellent performances, all of which were very well received. Looking back, Spring was suddenly upon us before we even realised it was New Year, and after that the time until show week loomed large went really quickly. Our second All Day rehearsal showed just how far we had come though, in that after some "brushing up" of choreography in the morning we were able to have a go at an almost full run of the show in the afternoon. This was not exactly "performance standard", shall we say, (!) but definitely encouraging. It also gave the ensemble a much better idea of how their routines fitted in with the scenes which the principals had been setting - some of which were hilarious! After that it was just a question of ensuring that all scenes had been fully set before we transferred to the Public Hall so we could check how things looked on the actual stage. Answer? Somewhat different of course, as it always is, but definitely a case of "we have a show". The only elements missing were the band and the full stage set, but we got to see both of these at the Technical rehearsal - and very good they were, too! Really lifted the whole feeling of the action on stage. And assuming you've been out of the country for several months, you might not know what extravaganza we are actually presenting. Well, we had been looking at possibilities for 2017 and beyond for quite a while, with many modern shows being considered along with more traditional favourites. Building on our desire to bring more "unusual" shows to the stage, we eventually decided to present 'The Drowsy Chaperone' as our show for the spring, directed by Martin Clarke & Jon Gibbs with choreography in the trusty hands (or should that be feet?) of Jean Cator. To chase his blues away, a modern day musical theatre addict known simply as "Man In Chair" drops the needle on his favourite LP - the 1928 musical comedy 'The Drowsy Chaperone'. From the crackle of his hi-fi, the uproariously funny musical magically bursts into life on stage, telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married, her producer who sets out to sabotage the nuptials, her chaperone, the debonair groom, the dizzy chorine, the Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs. Ruses are played, hi-jinks occur, and the plot spins everyone into musical comedy euphoria. Man In Chair's infectious love of 'The Drowsy Chaperone' speaks to anyone who has ever been transported by the theatre.