The Drowsy Chaperone, a musical within a comedy, received 13 Tony nominations in 2006, including one for Best Musical. The crown jewel went to Jersey Boys, but The Drowsy Chaperone collected five Tony awards for its book, musical score, costumes, set design and its feature actress. Needless to say, this show has pedigree.
We are fortunate to have The As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company bring this delightful and humorous musical to the stage. What’s even more fortunate is to see on stage a group of actors who commit themselves to their art with their hearts and souls, despite the company’s inability to provide a fully realized set, colorful costumes or live music.
Knowing the cost of producing a show and the challenges a company faces, I would normally overlook a production where suggested items are used to create the illusion of time and space. I might do the same for costumes and lights and even for pre-recorded music (although I confess that musicals without a live orchestra don’t sit well with me). But due to the fact that The Drowsy Chaperonis about witnessing how a fictional original cast recording comes “alive on stage” as we listen to the narration, motifs, explanations of each song and the musical itself, it makes it almost impossible to overlook the fact that in this particular production there isn’t really a majestic overture or a breathtaking world appearing on stage as “the curtain rises.” (There is no curtain in this theatre space, by the way.) In fact, these are the very elements wherein this production falls short.
Which is not to say that this production isn’t entertaining. For Gary Tipton as the Man in the Chair to carry the show and “invite” us into his personal habitat, and for an hour and thirty minutes makes us feel completely “at home,” is a task not every actor might be up to, but Mr. Tipton is up to the challenge. And then there is the array of good singing voices appearing on stage, from Rebecca Chaney as Janet Van De Graff and Aaron Davenport as Robert Martin to Carrie Chastain in the title role and Kim Perry as Trix, the Aviatrix. And let’s not forget the comedic timing of Kathy Todd Chaney as Mrs. Tottendale, Shawwna Ashley Speth as Kitty, and both Brad Lambert and Neil Brewer as Gangster #1 and Gangster #2, respectively.
But the evening truly belongs to two major players. As mentioned before, Gary Tipton as the Man in the Chair carries the big responsibility to deliver a history lesson about musical theatre, and he does it in a stupendous manner. Then there is the appearance of Jeff Ketterman as Aldolpho, the over-the-top, over-sexualized Latin lover, a character who has the potential to become offensive to some audience members (me, for example). Yet it is the most ridiculous and fun-to-watch stage personage I’ve seen in a long time. Watching Mr. Ketterman’s physical performance and facial reactions is priceless. It does, in fact, make you forget that some actors do not know how to tap dance but instead pound the floor so hard you’re afraid they’re going to dislocate their knees (yes, that’s how bad that tap duet is), and that some minor players couldn’t deliver lines quickly enough or missed their cues, causing a comedic timing issue in the process.
But even with all that, this production of The Drowsy Chaperone is a delight to watch and something I highly recommend to families and every theatre lover. And even as the Man in the Chair tells us that this show is silly and purely for entertainment, there is in fact something to learn about musical theatre: that it is a treat not easily accomplished through song and dance. Yet The Drowsy Chaperone makes it happen, and the As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company brings it to life. And all because of the willingness for the cast to commit 100% to the silliness, the over-the-top style of acting, and a desire to make the magic happen. From physical gags, laugh-out-loud jokes and dancing monkeys – yes, you need to see it to believe it, and then refrain yourself from hurting yourself from laughter – to ridiculous lyrics, endearing characters and unforgettable performances, the cast makes The Drowsy Chaperone the must-see musical of the month. Trust me; I’m a musical theatre addict…and someone who studies them for a living.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner