Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
The Drowsy Chaperone
Directed by Dave McIntosh
Choreographed by Barbara Clippinger
Musical Director Judy Hendrick
The Drowsy Chaperone began as a spoof of old musicals created in 1997 by Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison for the stag party in Toronto of Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. Later “Man in Chair” was added, and the skit became a full-length musical which went on tour and opened on Broadway in 2006. It’s a lot of fun for both audience and actors who can really ham it up and display a full range of musical and comedic talent.
At the beginning we meet Man in Chair, a slightly sad aficionado of old musicals who cheers himself up by playing a recording of The Drowsy Chaperone, a fictional musical comedy of the 1920’s. Rob Stupple is brilliantly misanthropic in the part, and his wry and amusing comments carry us safely through the crazy show that comes to life on stage. Artfully staged by Dave McIntosh with great comic timing, I enjoyed the whole wacky thing and it’s hard to pick out highlights. Betty Lloyd Robinson is wonderful as the forgetful “Mrs Tottendale” and she has a hilarious double act routine with Pat Carroll as her butler “Underling.”
Kevin O’Byrne plays the bridegroom “Robert Martin” with considerable style, and later manages the song “An Accident Waiting To Happen” on roller-skates and wearing a blindfold. Fortunately he doesn’t fall off the stage! I also enjoyed Don DeCarl as the impresario “Feldzieg” and Heather Hunter as his ditsy girl-friend “Kitty.” Don Wilson was great as “George” the best man with all the worries of organizing the wedding, and Greg Clarke and Russell Mack did their Two Stooges thing as gangsters pretending to be pastry cooks.
The funniest moment came at the beginning of the second act, after Man in Chair puts on a new record and leaves to go to the toilet. Immediately a scene appears on stage, set in an Oriental palace with characters in Chinese costume and the chaperone in a hoop-skirted dress. Then Man In Chair returns and apologizes for his mistake – he put on the wrong record, that was The Enchanted Nightingale, a silly piece of chinoiserie from the same period. Oops, and on with the show! Although the entire cast was excellent, Patteye Simpson as the drowsy (and slightly tipsy) chaperone, and Alexis Hoff as the career-minded bride were simply delightful. And Patrick DuMouchel stole the show as the latin lover “Aldolpho” – also the tongue-twisting Oriental emperor. We are lucky to have such talent in this town. I should also mention first-timer Wendy Petersen as the intrepid “Aviatrix,” and the always reliable Ray Himmelman who comes on at the end with a flashlight as the Superintendent to fix the breaker switches when the power fails.
The music was pleasant and entertaining and we had the pleasure of a live “Hot Stuff” band directed by Judy Hendrick. Also Flemming Halby was Assistant Choreographer and Music Conductor. Some of the numbers were good to watch with clever lyrics, particularly “Toledo Surprise”, “Bride’s Lament” and “As We Stumble Along”. A show like this takes a lot of talent and hard work, and I’m sorry I don’t have space to mention everyone who made a contribution. Congratulations to Dave McIntosh for creating such a slick and professional production – Win McIntosh was Stage Manager, Leslie DeCarl was Assistant Stage Manager and Donna Hogan was Production Assistant. This will be a tough act to follow – good luck to the last play of the season Not Now Darling, a Ray Cooney farce directed by Shirley Appelbaum, opening on March 23rd.