TR Robertson … If you are in need of laughter in your life, want to see a talented collection of actors and actresses on stage, and love a mix of big stage productions mixed with slap-stick and silliness, you will want to travel a short distance down Highway 15 to The Welk Resort and see the Premiere Production of “The Drowsy Chaperone”. Producers Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis, owners of Broadway Vista, and Director/Choreographer Ray Limon have assembled a wonderful collection of performers for a musical comedy many theatre goers are not familiar with but should see. Director Ray Limon has directed Welk’s “Cabaret” and “Chicago” and is an award winning director.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is taken from a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. The musical comedy debuted in Toronto, Canada, at The Rivoli in 1998 and appeared on Broadway in May of 2006. The musical won 5 Tony Awards and 7 Drama Desk Awards.
The Tony’s included Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actress, Best Scenic Design and Best Costume. The musical is a parody of American musical comedy from the 1920’s and is filled with mistaken identities, dream sequences, slap stick including a funny spitting routine, the prototypical absent minded lady, a drunken cast member who is capable of breaking into over-the-top performances, the butler who knows all, goofy gangsters, the ditzy dame who win out in the end, the clueless male lead, audience participation and high energy dance routines. What more could you ask for in a musical comedy.
The basic story line of “The Drowsy Chaperone” revolves around an ardent musical theatre fan who wants something to bring him out of the “blues”. The opening scene is done with the lights out as “The Man in the Chair” (the narrator) discusses his
personal feelings about musical theatre, the anticipation of the opening of a show and hoping the show will be a good one. The action takes place in his apartment as his favorite musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone” comes to life. This 1928 musical is fictional, but real to The Man in the Chair, and a musical that has meaning to his love of theatre. Along the way,
The Man in the Chair explains, discusses and elaborates on the musical, the original cast member’s background and what has happened to them. He will present the musical using an LP record which he will stop and start to explain what will be coming next. He describes the Overture to the musical as an appetizer. Then its lights up and the apartment become the musical stage.
The Man in the Chair is played Vincent Pasquill, making his professional debut with Broadway Vista, but having played The Man in the Chair twice before. Pasquill handled the fast paced role with ease as he led the audience through the long list of characters and their backgrounds. Throughout the musical, as The Man in the Chair, we hear discords on the importance of musical theatre, a dislike of people with cell phones and candy wrappers, the lack of enough women’s restrooms, and the importance of musical theatre in providing some answers to problems by singing about them rather than whining about them.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” play has an intertwined plot with numerous characters. Oil magnate Robert Martin (Bob Martin one of the writers of the actual play) is to marry successful performer Janet Van de Graaff. Robert is played by Aaron Shaw, also a first time Broadway Vista performer and veteran actor and Janet is played by Ashlee Espinosa, also a veteran actress and former Welk Theatre performer as the lead in “Cabaret”. Ashlee was able to shine with a beautiful soprano voice in the numbers “Showoff” and “Bride’s Lament”. “Bride’s Lament” is a most unusual song and dance number with circus monkeys appearing in a dream scene. Aaron was impressive as the bumbling groom and performed in several tap numbers along with George, best friend of Robert, played by Patrick MacDonald who makes his return to the Welk Stage. Both men were an audience hit with energetic tap routines.
Janet wishes to leave the performing business, which is upsetting Feldzig, a Follies producer who is hounded by to equally bumbling gangsters whose boss has invested money in the Follies and wants Janet to remain. Feldzig is played by veteran actor Torre Younghans and the two gangsters, who are impersonating chefs, are played by Chris Bona and Dante Macatantan, both of whom have previously performed in Welk Theatre productions and other San Diego area productions. Feldzig also has a “girlfriend”, Kitty, played by Kylie Molnar. Kitty is a squeaky voiced showgirl who has eyes on both Feldzig and being a successful performer. Molnar has numerous regional theatre credits and performed Off-Broadway last summer. Kitty, Feldzieg, the Gangsters and Mrs. Tottendale are in a funny dance routine to “Toledo Surprise” that also involves an equally funny moment when the record begins to skip and has the cast moving to perfection with the music of the skip.
Add to the mix a butler, called Underling, played by veteran Doug Friedman, and a forgetful hostess, Mrs. Tottendale, played by Improv, theatre, television veteran Robin La Valley and the inebriated Drowsy Chaperone, played by Lisa Dyson, aviatrix Trix, played by Justin High and Latin lover Aldolpho, played by Alex Allen and you have enough parts to keep you guessing as to what will happen next. Lisa Dyson is playing the role of the Drowsy Chaperone again and been in numerous other theatre productions and Justin appears in the play not only as Trix but in several other roles. Dyson steals a scene when she sings “As We Stumble Along” with a powerful voice. Alex Allen is an audience favorite with his over-the-top presentation of Latin lover Aldolpho. He too is a veteran actor and was recently in the Welk production of “The Music Man”.
As the musical draws to a close, The Man in the Chair is given one final opportunity to join in with the cast in a final number, “As We Stumble Along”, providing a fun and entertaining evening to an equally fun and entertaining musical.
This is one of those musicals everyone should have on their list of “must sees” as it has fun poking fun at musical theatre, while providing great dance and song numbers long with hilarious situations. “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be at The Welk until August 27th. Tickets can be obtained by calling 1-888-802-7469 or go to www.broadwayvista.com.
Photos by Randall Hickman
Don’t miss out on a time to have a good laugh for a fun evening.