Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Drowsy Chaperone"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"The Drowsy Chaperone"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Rhode Island College's current 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 theatre 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 Graaf, a showgirl who plans to give her career up 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 and 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 not above upstaging the occasional co-star. Bill Wilson picks the best 19 performers for these wild and madcap roles, winning his cast a spontaneous standing ovation at curtain call.

Bill obtains topnotch performances from his youthful cast. His blocking of the show is ingenious where he incorporates the man in the chair in the main action of the show numerous times, adding to the hilarity of the show. He is aided in his endeavors by Anthony Torelli. He taught the lovely 1920's type score to the cast and his superb musicians supply gorgeous accompaniment to the performers. Pianist Stephen DeCesare also appears as the building superintendent in the final moments of the show. Choreography by Angelica Vessella includes Charleston, tap dance, tango, Busby Berkley type dances to mention a few. Her performers dance up a storm in this show and they shine in their dancing prowess. The Man in the Chair is played by Daniel Larson and he is phenomenal in this role. He keeps the plot in constant motion with his narration and weaves in and out of scenes with his castmates. Daniel commands the stage in this role and joins in on several numbers, singing and dancing in them. He also is hilarious in the finale of the show. His comic references and huge amount of dialogue is excellently executed. Bravo in this huge undertaking. Sarah Pothier is marvelous as Janet from her singing and dancing to her acting and her expert comic timing She is a stunning brunette who wears a red wig and mesmerizes the audience in her songs. "Show Off" is her first number and it starts as a torch song which builds into a belting number with Sarah performing high kicks and acrobatics. It is reminiscent of a number from "Gypsy". She also sings "Bride's Lament", a truly silly love song where Janet describes her boyfriend like a monkey on a pedestal. Sarah gives a winning performance as this young ingenue, winning the hearts of the audience while doing so. Naysh Fox is tall, blond and handsome as her suitor, Robert. He is fantastic especially in "Accident Waiting to Happen" where he dances blindfolded on roller skates. This number has to be seen to be believed. Naysh also does an excellent song and dance routine to "Cold Feets" with Joe Nicastro as George, the best man. Their tap dancing is fabulous and stops the show at their expertise. Joe is terrific and uses his powerhouse tenor voice in the Wedding Songs. I have been reviewing Joe since he was ten years old and this show is another feather in his cap. Marissa Silva is hilarious as the Drowsy Chaperone. Bill Wilson gives her some clever shtick to perform as she constantly guzzles her drinks. Marissa uses her lovely voice in "As We Stumble Along", a rousing anthem which refers to her drinking. She also sings "I Am Aldolpho" where she seduces the Latin lover and "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 Derek Capobianco whose dark swarthy looks and smarmy charm win over the audience as this character. Some of his antics include wooing the Charperone which wins him many accolades from the crowd and he delivers his name in a deep mysterious voice.

David Groccia is funny as Feldzeig, the producer. He gets to show off his singing voice in "Toledo Surprise" where he and the whole cast do a rousing Charleston. His girlfriend Kitty wants to replace Janet in the show but sounds like Lina Lamont from "Singing in the Rain". Nicole Calkins plays Kitty, is a gorgeous blonde bombshell and is hilarious as this dim bulb. She shows off her dancing prowess in "Toledo Surprise". The hysterical gangsters are played by Tyler Indyck and Neil Jeronimo. They have many puns about cooking and are reminiscent of the two thugs from "Kiss Me Kate". Tyler and Neil show off their voices in "Toledo Surprise" and "Message from a Nightingale". Their scene stealing antics are priceless and include disguising themselves as pastry chefs and acrobats. Playing the eccentric dowager, Mrs. Tottendale is Jessica Aspeel whose antics are priceless as she plays this ditsy woman. She has a funny bit with her butler about supplying vodka for the party, everytime she says ice water. Jessica spits in his face several times winning many laughs. Her faithful butler, Underling is played by Brendan Macera. His dynamic line deliver and outstanding portrayal win him much laughter from the crowd. He also shines in the soft shoe with Jessica during their song. Brendan turns this character into one of the biggest scene stealers of the night. Chantell Arraial plays Trix, a mysterious woman who solves the problems facing the cast in the finale. Kudos to the entire cast and crew especially the gorgeous costumes by Charlotte Dunning Burgess and the fantastic set by Katryne Hecht. The lighting by Alan Pickart and sound by James Bohn is amazing, too. So for a hilarious evening of song and dance in a brand new show that resembles a 1920's smash hit, be sure to catch "The Drowsy Chaperone" at Rhode Island College. Tell them Tony sent you. Run do not walk to the box office before this show sells out.

"The Drowsy Chaperone" (12 - 15 April)
RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE THEATRE
@ Roberts Auditorium, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI
1(401)456-8144

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