The Drowsy Chaperone
The Drowsy Chaperone
Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Directed by Julia Allardice Gagne
Musical Direction by Tim Hanes
Starring Robert Di Giovanni, Evangeline Mateo, Jillian Gizzi
Valencia College, Orlando, FL</strong>
Why am I the only person in two packed theatres who thinks “Percy Hyman” is a funny name? Tonight was the second time I laughed, and the world did not laugh with me. Other than that, this over-the-top production of a deconstructed 1920’s vapid musical was a charming blast. It’s the large screen version of the more intimate show across town and done on a proper proscenium stage with a cast of zillions.
You may already know the plot: a lonely Man In Chair (DiGiovanni) brings out an old LP of a long forgotten musical that he obsesses upon. It’s a “Play in a play”, certainly done to death since the trope arose in Denmark a few years back, but this polished chestnut features all the stock characters of that bygone era. Wealthy George Martin (Paul Hambidge) prepares to marry his fiancée Janet Van de Graff (Gizzi) who is forbidden from seeing him because it’s bad luck. Janet quit the stage to wed this oil baron and her old producer Feldzieg (Travis Eaton) must convince her to keep acting lest mobsters (Bruce Costella and Steven Fox) pun him to death. Watching over the bride we find the titular Drowsy Chaperone (Mateo) drinking heavily and seduced by lothario Adolpho (Paul Layton). All this ramps up to a big blow out finale and everyone weds and flies down to Rio with Trix, the Aviatrix (Leontyne Carter). It’s pure entertainment, even if you don’t get the Percy Hyman gag.
What works best on this stage are the monster production numbers like Janet’s “Show Off” and the ensemble “I Do, I Do In The Sky” and even the gag scene from another show “Message From A Nightingale.” This is show that demands a curtain and a fly loft, but today it’s all 3/4 Thrust and remote controlled lights. Name two other theatres with a curtain. Stumped you, didn’t I? Mr. Speller and his best man George (Tyrone Speller) do some superb tapping in “Cold Feets”, Adolph’s self titles tango with Drowsy is ridiculously funny, and there’s excellent monkey choreography in “Bride’s Lament” – it’s so hard to get apes to Buck and Wing. Supporting the main comedy we have one of the longest spit takes ever staged between dotty Mrs. Tottendale (Amy Cuccaro) and elegant Underling (Buddy Fales). As Man In Chair explains: this is simple mechanics, it gives the rest of the cast time to change costumes. I appreciate this attention to detail, and the fact he mops up after the ice water is sprayed. This is a big show, silly in concept but brilliant in executions, and a good example of how to play a comedy in a big space.
For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/</em>