The Drowsy Chaperone by Theatre Under The Stars
Until August 19th
Incredibly tight, ridiculously hilarious and a surprisingly touching show.
What delightful script and how wonderfully unusual were it’s beginnings. First created by Don McKellar, Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert as wedding gift for their friend Bob Martin. These talented friends realized that their passion had created something special so it was re-worked as a Fringe Show. Then it got a full production in Toronto and the next stop was Broadway where it won 5 Tony awards!
The story? An anthropophagic man in chair, suffering from a non-specific sadness decides to listen to his favorite 1928 musical – The Drowsy Chaperone. As he tells of it’s history, tidbits about the cast and it wild implausible story line, the characters come to life in his apartment!
This script is ingeniously silly as it pokes fun of the fluffy comedies of that era but it is it has a dark streak that runs through making it subversively comical as well. This productions hit’s the nail on the head note for note.
Director Gillian Barber has done a brilliant job casting this show that is chockfull off eccentric characters. There is not a single mis-step and some of them going above and beyond what is required (I’m looking at you Nicholas Bradbury and Kai Bradbury, such athletic physical comedy as the Gangsters).
The setting is a wedding between a Broadway star and handsome man that has an eclectic guest list, some of who don’t want the wedding to happen.
One of the delights of the script is as we are happily satiated as one pair of guests exit a hilarious scene, another brilliant funny couple enter and we eagerly perk up to see what comic chaos will they bring.
For example: Beleaguered best man George (keenly played by Blake Sartin) decides the best way for the perky groom (delectably schmarmy Stuart Barkley) to relax is to roller skate and to insure he doesn’t see his bride he blindfolds him. They exit singing “I’m An Accident Waiting to Happen” and in comes the over the top Latin lover Aldolpho (a full of bombast Dimitrios Stephanoy) trying to seduce our title character The Drowsy Chaperone (a drunkenly outlandish Caitriona Murphy).
As the ingénue with talent and attitude to spare Shannon Hanbury gives a star turn singing the brilliantly funny “Show Off” and then the exquisitely bizarre “Monkey On A Pedestal / Bride’s Lament” with panache.
The emotional heart of the silly show is the Man In The Chair. Shawn Macdonald blends the right amounts of pessimism and hope to this waifish little man and in the end when a small calamity strikes he surprisingly brings a tear to the eye in his anguish.
Everyone was great though. Lauren Gula as Kitty – great! Peter Stainton as Underling – great! Jenna Testani as Superintendent – great! Ali Watson as Trix – great! Stefan Winfield as Feldzieg – great! Sheryl Anne Weaton as Tottendale – great!
Robert Hebert, Colin Humphrey, Braeden Saucy, Roshaan Saulnier, Emma Schellenberg, Stevens Simeon, Rachel Theilade, Chantelle Ward,Nicco Del Rio, Britt Bailey, Rosie Del Angel, Devon Findley, Hayley Goldenberg. Bronwyn Williams and little Wesley Winfield – all great!
The expansive apartment set with it’s over sized fridge and secret little surprises by Brian Ball is full of rich detail but also muted enough so the wildly fun costumes by Chris Sinosich can really pop. She has so many fun outfits but I was quite transfixed by the herringbone one – piece bathing suits that the gangsters wore in one scene.
Shelley Stewart Hunt (with assistance by Emily Matchette) gets some wonderful and refreshing dance moves out of the large cast.
Kevin Michael Cripps (with assistance by Jenaya Barker) conducts Lia Wolfe, Clare Wyatt, Lawrence Woodall, Kevin Woo, Niel Bonnett, Miranda Wheeler, Jon Bogert, Jonathan Kury, Drew Dumas, Angus Lam, Ben Parker and Thomas Envoy to a tight but buoyant sound.
I also want to give a shout out to Brad Danyluk, Cameron Fraser, Donnie Tejani, Sebastian Finch, Joel Grinke, Madelaine Walker, Adam Beggs, Evan Ren, and to Stage Manager Lois Dawson.
This is semi-professional theatre built but a talented community ensemble. They all deserved to be recognized for the work on making such a lovely show.
They have created a breathtakingly hilarious, tunefully rich, wonderfully fun night at the theatre. The Chaperone might have been Drowsy but I was wide-eyed and giddy with excitement trough they whole affair.
My companion laughed throughout and was beaming at the end. “That was just great!” he said and then a moment later he added “I am going to see it again!”.
I completely understood why.
David C Jones