Theatre Mirror Review"The Drowsy Chapeone"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"The Drowsy Chaperone"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Norton Players summer show is "The Drowsy Chaperone". The show first opened on Broadway on May 1, 2006 and starred Georgia Engel as Mrs. Tottendale and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score. The hilarious show-within-a-show begins when a die-hard musical fan decides to play his favorite cast album, a 1928 smash hit called "The Drowsy Chaperone" and the show magically bursts to life right in his apartment. The audience is instantly immersed in the uproarious wedding day with a Broadway bride, a celebrity groom and of course a "drowsy" chaperone. The plot centers on Janet Van de Graaff, a showgirl who plans to give up her career in order to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin. However Janet is the star of "Feldzieg's Follies" and her producer is being threatened by two gangsters employed by his chief investor. Disguised as pastry chefs, these two pun-happy thugs want Feldzieg to stop the wedding and he enlists the help of Adolpho, a bumbling Latin Lothario, to seduce Janet and spoil her relationship with Robert. Meanwhile, Janet is having doubts about her groom, disguises herself as a French woman, tempts him into kissing her with a massive misunderstanding taking place. The ensuing plot incorporates mistaken identities, dream sequences, spit takes, a deus ex machina, an unflappable English butler, an absent-minded dowager, a ditzy chorine, a harried best man and Janet's "Drowsy" meaning tipsy Chaperone, played in the show-within-a-show by a blowzy Grande Dame of the Stage specializing in "rousing anthems" and constantly upstaging the occasional co-star. Ted Mitchell picks the best 25 performers for these wild and madcap roles, winning his cast a standing ovation at the close of the show.

Ted gives his cast some clever shtick to perform including pratfalls and spittakes and they do it with finesse. Ted is aided in his task by Tony Torelli. He taught the beautiful 1920's type score to the cast and obtains glorious sounds from his 13 piece orchestra, too. Choreography by Judee Bottomley includes Charleston, tap, tango, and Busby Berkley type dances to name a few. Her performers move perfectly to her dance steps. The Man in the Chair is phenomenally played by Peyton Pugmire. He weaves his way in and out of the scenes. Peyton commands the stage in this role, delivering his enormous amounts of dialogue and comic references wonderfully. He joins in on several songs and dances in the show. Peyton reminds you of a young Paul Lynde and is dynamite in this role. Bravo! Jennifer Mischley is marvelous as Janet from her singing and dancing to her acting and splendid comic timing. She is a beautiful brunette and mesmerizes the audience with her songs, "Show Off" which starts off as a torch song, builds into a belting song with her doing high kicks and acrobatics. It is reminiscent of a number from "Gypsy". Jennifer also sings "Bride's Lament", a truly silly love song where Janet describes her boyfriend as being a monkey on a pedestal. Ted has the cast don monkey masks during it, giving it a funnier rendition. She gives a winning performance as the heroine of this musical. Joseph Arsenault is tall, dark and handsome as her suitor, Robert. He is fantastic especially in "Accident Waiting to Happen" where he dances blindfolded on roller skates while doing pratfalls at the same time. This number has to be seen to be believed. Joseph also does an excellent song and dance routine to "Cold Feets" with Brain Kenerson as George, the best man. Their tap dancing is fabulous and stops the show with their expertise. It's good to see Joseph back onstage after a four year hiatus. Brian also uses his singing voice in the Wedding Songs. Janet Ferreri as the Drowsy Chaperone is hilarious. Ted gives her some clever shtick to perform as she constantly guzzles from her drinks. Janet's voice is heard in "As We Stumble Along" which refers to her drinking, in "I Am Adolpho" where she seduces the Latin lover and in "Message from a Nightingale" with Kitty, the gangsters and Adolpho where they are disguised in Asian attire. This latter song opens Act 2 and sounds like "Western People Funny" from "The King & I". It has rhyming words like Asian and Caucasian. Adolpho is played by Kevin Mischley whose dark swarthy looks and smarmy charm wins over the audience as this character. His wig reminds you of Pepe le Peu. Some of his antics include wooing the Chaperone which wins him many accolades from the crowd. Kevin also pronounces Adolpho in a deep mysterious voice and is a hoot in this role.

Ty Waterman is comical as Feldzeig, the producer. He shows off his voice in "Toledo Surprise" where he and the whole cast do a rousing Charleston. His girlfriend Kitty wants to replace Janet in the show. Kitty sounds like Lina Lamont from "Singing in the Rain". Michaela Murphy plays Kitty, wears a blonde wig and is very funny as this dim bulb. She shows off her dancing prowess in "Toledo Surprise". The two gangsters are played by Daniel Gravely and Anthony Huntington. They have many puns about cooking and are reminiscent of the two gangsters from "Kiss Me Kate". They show off their voices in "Toledo Surprise" and "Message from a Nightingale". Playing the eccentric dowager, Mrs. Tottendale is Judee Bottomley whose antics have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. She is very funny as this ditsy woman especially in the spittakes with her butler. She asks him for an ice water when she really wants vodka and when he gives it to her, she spits in his face several times winning many laughs. Her faithful butler, Underling is played by Stephen Lee whose deadpan delivery wins many laughs. Their duet "Love is Always Lovely in the End" is lovely as they do a splendid soft shoe. Maria Hendricks plays Trix, a mysterious woman who solves the problems facing the cast in the finale. Her strong belting voice is heard in "I Do I Do in the Sky".Kudos to the entire cast and crew especially impressive is the magnificent set by Brian Crete and the gorgeous 1920's costumes by Daniel Gravely. So for a hilarious evening of song and dance is a brand new show that resembles a 1920 hit, be sure to catch "The Drowsy Chaperone".

"The Drowsy Chaperone (1 - 10 June)

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