Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Drowsy Chaperone"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The Drowsy Chaperone"

by Tony Annicone

The last show at Turtle Lane Playhouse's 30th season 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 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. Dan Dowling picks the best 17 performers for these wild and madcap roles, winning his cast a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the show.

Dan is also a dynamic actor. I last reviewed him as Edna in "Hairspray" last summer at Reagle. Dan is aided in his task by Howie Boles. Howie taught the beautiful 1920's type score to the cast and he and his topnotch musicians supply gorgeous accompaniment to the performers. Choreography by Karen Fogarty includes Charleston, tap, tango, Busby Berkley type dances to name a few. Her performers move perfectly to her routines. The Man in the Chair is played by David Herder. He keeps the plot moving along during his narration and weaves in and out of scenes. He commands the stage in this role, making comic references along the way. David joins in on the finale of the show. He delivers his enormous amount of dialogue wonderfully. Janet Theoharris is marvelous as Janet from her singing and dancing to her acting and expert comic timing. She is only 18 years old, is a beautiful blonde and mesmerizes the audience in her songs "Show Off" where it starts off as a torch song, builds into a belting number with her doing high kicks and acrobatics. It is reminiscent of a number from "Gypsy". Janet also sings "Bride's Lament" where she sings about her boyfriend as a monkey on a pedestal. Tim McShea 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 which has to be seen to be believed. He also does an excellent song and dance routine to "Cold Feets" with David Carney as George the best man. Their tap dancing is fabulous and stops the show at their expertise. David uses his strong tenor voice in the Wedding Songs. I last reviewed him as John Michel in "La Cage Aux Folles" a couple of years ago. Kate DeLima as the drowsy chaperone is hilarious in this role. Dan gives her some clever shtick to perform while she guzzles from her flask. Kate uses her lovely voice in "As We Stumble Along" which refers to her drinking as well as in "I Am Aldopho" 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 Peter Mill whose dark swarthy looks and smarmy charm wins over the audience as this character. Some of his antics include wooing the Chaperone which wins him many accolades from the crowd and delivering his name in a deep mysterious voice. He is a hoot in this role.

Joe Berry is a very comical as Feldzieg, the producer. He wears a mustache, looking like Groucho Marx. 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 and sounds like Lina Lamont from "Singing in the Rain". Julia Deegler plays Kitty, is a gorgeous blond bombshell and is very comical as this dim bulb. She shows off her dancing prowess in "Toledo Surprise". The two gangsters are played by Jordan Greeley and Chas Kircher. They have many puns about cooking and are reminiscent of the two thugs from "Kiss Me Kate" and get to 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. Playing the eccentric dowager, Mrs. Tottendale is Sarah Jones whose antics have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter as this ditsy woman. She has a funny bit with her butler about supplying vodka when she says ice water. Sarah spits in his face several times winning many laughs. Her faithful comic butler, Underling is played by Stephen Peters whose deadpan delivery wins many laughs. Their duet "Love is Always Lovely in the End" is lovely. Kira Cowan plays Trix, a mysterious woman who solves the problems facing the cast in the finale. Kudos to the entire cast and crew especially beautiful are the costumes especially Mrs. Tottendale's outfits by Richard Itczak who seems to outdo himself for every show. Matt Guminski designed the expert lighting for the show while the scenic design is by Eric and Holly Diaz. Stage manager NancyAllen keeps things running smoothly all night long. 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 Turtle Lane Playhouse. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Drowsy Chaperone" ( 13 - 29 May)
TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
@ 283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MA
1(617)244-0169

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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