Maine State Music Theatre does a dazzling ‘Drowsy Chaperone’

The Drowsy Chaperone

Music by: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

Book by: Bob Martin and Don McKellar

Showdate: Tuesday, August 18th 2009 – 8:00PM

Company: Maine State Music Theatre

Venue: The Pickard Theatre – Brunswick, Maine, USA

Director: Marc Robin

The Drowsy Chaperone is one of my favorite shows. I saw it 2 years ago when it came to Toronto with DanCap. Unfortunately, it didn’t star Sutton Foster as the glamourous Janet Van De Graff, a role in which she originated, but Bob Martin, Tony award winning writer of the show, came back just for the Toronto stop of the tour to play the role he originated. Georgia Engel also went on tour to play the role she originated on Broadway, Mrs. Tottendale.

DROWSY: A History Lesson

“The Drowsy Chaperone started in 1998, when McKellar, Lambert, Morrison and a group of their friends created a spoof of old musicals for the stag party of Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. In its first incarnation, there was no Man in Chair, the musical styles ranged from the 1920s to the 1940s, and the jokes were a lot more risqué. When the show was reshaped for the Toronto Fringe Festival, Martin became a co-writer, creating Man in Chair to serve as a narrator/commentator for the piece.

Following the Fringe staging, Toronto commercial theatre producer David Mirvish financed an expanded production at Toronto’s 160-seat, non-profit Theatre Passe Muraille in 1999. Box office success and favourable notices led Mirvish in 2001 to finance further development and produce a full scale version at Toronto’s 1000-seat Winter Garden Theatre. During that production, Linda Intaschi, Associate Producer of Mirvish Productions, invited New York producer Roy Miller to see the musical. Miller saw potential in the show and he optioned the rights.”  It later went to Los Angeles and a with a few changes here and there premiered on Broadway on May 6th, 2006. It was nominated for 13 Tony awards and went on to win 5 incluing Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

The Drowsy Chaperone is an homage to musicals of the 20’s and the jazz age.

ACTORS:


Charles Abbott as THE MAN IN THE CHAIR:

This was certainly a very enjoyable performance. It was different than Bob Martin himself but of course every actor is different so really there should be no comparison. In the beginning, when setting up the whole show with the record, I don’t think he needed to move around so much. It was distracting and  was really jumpy. He really embraced the character and you really felt as though he was the Man in the Chair and his life’s experiences were being talked about and explained. I do think that there were some funny lines that were thrown away (ex. in the ‘Bride’s Lament’, he is to echo what Janet has just sung by singing “pedestal”. He did but he was drinking from his “brandy” and it made the sound bubbly and stuff and you couldn’t actually hear what he was saying. He is supposed to be completely swept away by the moment and holding his drink in his hand). You don’t really realize how big of a role the Man in the Chair is until you see the show (again). He had a very enjoyable performance and carried the show very well.

Karen K. Edissi as MRS. TOTTENDALE:

Her look was perfect for the role. I don’t think she played the role as dumb as it should have been played. I couldn’t hear the funny lines like “There’s going to be a wedding? I love weddings!” and lines like that. They were thrown away and weren’t played dumb and funny. In her song “Love is Always Lovely in the End”, a lighter, brighter tone would have been nice to hear. I never got the fact that she was falling for Underling, the butler, but I do think the spit take was funny.

John-Charles Kelly as UNDERLING:

I don’t know if I liked the way he played the role. He played it straight and bland. It didn’t really show any feeling in the character which is especially important when Mrs. Tottendale chooses him and then they they get married. It doesn’t make him very versatile and doesn’t really showcase him as an actor. I had trouble hearing some of his lines and some funny lines were thrown away too due to the fact he played it straight. I did however love, in “Cold Feets” when he came out with the tray of water while falapping. It was very funny and the timing was great. I think one of the only times that the straightness worked was is the spit take scene with Mrs. Tottendale when he would keep going back for “ice water” and saying the same line. It definitely made it funny. It worked well. I feel like in “Love is Always Lovely in the End”, he could have cracked a smile or something to show his affection for Mrs. Tottendale. I mean she does choose him in the end. Wouldn’t you be happy?

(Wait, so he does smile!)

Tyler Hanes as ROBERT MARTIN:

This guy had such a spectacular performance. The first thing I noticed was his dancing. He had a great entrance in the opening song and you could really tell he was a very well trained dancer. His smile was so bright and electric that you really could have believed he was really a toothpaste man. His good looks and charms wasn’t a flaw either. His big solo “Cold Feets” was really fantastic. He had such great tapping and  you could really see his training come through in his dance. Like, compared to the other guy, Tyler’s arms were completely extended and fingers were extended too. He just looked like and presented himself very much like a dancer. Since he was a dancer, his amazing voice surprised me. A great singing voice. He really made “Cold Feets” a memorable number even from the beginning. It was truly amazing. He did a cute and funny job on “Accident Waiting to Happen”. I liked how he kept running into things but I wish that maybe there could have been more things to make the audience feel on the edge of their seats and nervous. Maybe he could have gotten closer to the edge of the stage or something. There was one part near the end where he jettéed over the stairs and called Janet’s name. It was hilarious and I was honestly laughing for five minutes. It was great. I enjoyed the fact that the flamboyancy was used to enhance the character and worked in a really funny way. His performance was very enjoyable and I loved every minute.

Marc Kessler as GEORGE:

I really enjoyed Marc’s performance. In the beginning I wasn’t so sure since the words in his opening in ‘Fancy Dress’ were clipped a bit. But once he came out in ‘Cold Feets’ none of the mattered anymore cause his tapping was sensational. I can honestly say that I didn’t think he would be much of a tapper but he was outstanding! After the show, I read his bio and it turns out he’d tapped for 6 years with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings and Tommy Tune. His character George doesn’t really do a whole lot in the show but he is very important. When he was on, you could really see his frustration and nerves of the wedding looming over him. At the end, in ‘George’s Triumph’, I liked how they incorporated more tapping. They sort of made it his “thing”. He had a very enjoyable performance.

Bill Bateman as FELDZIEG:

Overall, he played a good Feldzieg. Once again, not a very big role but an important one. I liked to kooky glasses he was given to sorta make his character look a little crazy. His voice was good for the part. Now, I know I shouldn’t compare to the recording but in this way, I think he did indeed sound like the scruffy-voiced guy on the recording and it made it that much better. He didn’t over act which in this show can be a bad thing but he did a good job. Not a very memorable performance but still a good one.

Karen Hyland as KITTY:

She did a really cute and good performance. She still played the role relatively dumb but she honestly could have been even dumber. I really liked how awkward she was in the “wrong-record-song” ‘Message from a Nightingale’. She had the weird wood-looking piece on her back and it looked really difficult to move in. I like how she played that up a bit. I know Kitty’s voice has to be kinda squeaky so I think she could have made it more like that. She did a really good job with the role. Karen was also leads in 3 other shows with MSMT this summer season so I give her kudos for learning 4 parts this summer.

Raymond Marc Dumont and Michael Biren as THE GANGSTERS:

These two were very funny and worked well together. Twins, especially identical ones, are a really tough thing to play cause you have to be very exact and together and stuff. I think they did a good job at sticking together but I think they could have been sharper with the movements. I know it is hard to it’s not like it’s a big deal but it would have been nice. The timing and delivery of their lines were so spot on and they were very funny. Their dancing was really fun in ‘Toledo Surprise” and I their entire performance was really fun and comedic.

Curt Dale Clark as ALDOLPHO

I’d say that his performance of Aldolpho was a job well-done. I don’t think his accent was very good but I really like that whenever he said the classic “WHA-?!” that he made it the same every time, even in the ‘Message from a Nightingale’ scene. I think he could have played around with the timing, vocals and acting on ‘I Am Aldolpho’. It’s a really funny song and a very funny character so I really think he should have been really crazy and over the top. He was still enjoyful and comedic though, as Aldolpho should be.

Lara Seibert as JANET VAN DE GRAAFF:

Since this is one of my favorite characters in musical theatre, I have a lot to say. Now, I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed with her in the beginning. Her opening line in ‘Fancy Dress’ wasn’t nearly as powerful as it should be. I really think that it should be more punched out and really showy. She is after all  one of the biggest stars on the planet and is “adored by millions”. When she did the “Who’s my little monkey” thing at the beginning, I couldn’t hear her and it should have been played up more since it is foreshadowing for one of her big solo numbers. In ‘Show Off’, I was expecting more vocally. I mean, it is hard to compare to Sutton Foster cause she is brilliant but I think she could have been louder. You could definitely see in this number though that she is a very trained dancer who learned to sing after. I felt that she underacted the role. Janet is supposed to be very dramatic and over the top and Lara didn’t portray it like that. Not a good acting choice on her part. In the scene before the song ‘Accident Waiting to Happen’, he French accent wasn’t very good but I liked it since it kinda adds to the cliché and maybe how not great of an actress Janet Van De Graaff might have or have not been. I liked it in a funny way. It was cute. In the song, he over powered he a little bit but I feel like it was because she wasn’t singing as loud as he was. He shouldn’t have to tone it down because his partner isn’t loud enough. On the last note, he vibrato made her fall flat a little bit. ‘Bride’s Lament’ needed more emotion. She’s taken everything she had and thrown it all away and I didn’t get that at all. The song is cheesy in the show but it is what Janet is really feeling so she has to act it out. That is a good song to be over the top in. She had a nice tone but it could have been stronger. The “do” on the second verse sounded perfect. Great and comedic. Loved when she sat on the swing and pulled the bottom of her robe off from on top of her leg. Very funny. I think she took too much time during musical pauses. She would walk too slowly or took too long doing whatever she was doing so it took away a little bit from the flow of the song. He final note was perfect! Where was that voice during the whole beginning of the show! Oy! Overall, she did a goo job but I think she wasn’t nearly as strong of a singer as she needed to be. Her acting was fairly weak and I didn’t get any sort of snobby, “Look at me, I’m the biggest star on the planet” vibe. A pretty good job though.

Charis Leos as THE DROWSY CHAPERONE:

She truly was a wonderful Chaperone character. Now that I think about it, she was much more memorable than the lady I saw on the tour that came to Toronto 2 years ago. Now, I don’t know if that’s because this performance was more recent or if she actually is memorable. Although, the name of the show is The Drowsy Chaperone, it isn’t that big of a part. She isn’t in that much but everything that happens is because she is the one who accidentally makes it happen. Her entrance in ‘Fancy Dress” was great. She played the drunk thing well and it wasn’t too overly done that is wasn’t believable. She didn’t throw away any of her lines which is really good cause almost all of them are very funny. Her big song, “As We Stumble Along” was awesome. It was very funny and very over the top. Her facial expression at the end during the “Stumble, Bumble, Fumble, …. Plumble”. That was great. She had the perfect Chaperone voice. Her character kinda disappears in the second act and she really made you want to see more of her and her character. Her scene with Aldolpho was very funny. She had some really great character stuff down, especially once Aldolpho came into her part of the show. You could really see her see how dumb he was even if the was completely smashed.  It was a great, memorable and very enjoyable performance.

Kalia Lynne as TRIX:

A good solid entrance. Her role is very small but she gets one of the best songs in the show. I feel like her voice wasn’t strong enough in volume and I don’t know if that was because of the mics or if she doesn’t have a loud voice but it was definitely a factor. She really did a great job with her little tiny part and did a great job. Whenever she entered, she really made an entrance and she really did everything wonderfully.

Effie Aardema, Matthew Geller, Kaitlyn Johnson, Brian Kess, Rachel Rhodes-Devey and Jacob Toth (as the Super) as THE ENSEMBLE:

They all looked very great as a group. I felt like their entrance vocally wasn’t as strong as I had anticipated it should or would be. A moment that I loved was in “Show Off” when (I think it was) Matthew Geller’s character in the ensemble was putting on Janet’s wrap thingy during a breif pause in the music (right before the “I don’t wanna change keys no more” verse) and the sleeve was inside out and he couldn’t get it on and it was very funny. The girl playing Janet was very funny cause she rolled her eyes and sat into one hip a little bit and was very in character. It was a great moment. They were great monkeys in the “Bride’s Lament”. They are all evenly strong singers and dancers. They were all very focused and in the moment and they also always had smiles on their faces. They were a very good, small ensemble.

TECHNICAL:

DIRECTION AND CHOREOGRAPHY by Marc Robin:

A simple spectacular show and production. All the ideas of the show were there and were perfect. I had so many favourite moments in the show, direction wise. When Trix enters for the second time, she’s supposed to enter from the ceiling from a parachute but this theatre didn’t have that kind of system so their compromise was having her enter from one side of the stage but followed soon after was 3 of the ensemble members carrying a parachute which I thought was a great compromise. Another time they, compromised for not having anything coming down from the ceiling was for Trix’s airplane. Instead of having a whole plane come down, they just had airplane wings and a propeller and made it look like they were on a plane. It’s picture above (under the Trix review). Very creative. He worked very well with the space he had and used it very well. I really loved all the choreography. The choreo in “Show Off” was very good and very similar to the Broadway version which I really liked. But, they incorporated some special talents that the actress had (jugging, pointe shoes, etc.) which was great to watch and changed it up a bit. Also, the ending of “Toledo Surprise”, had that very classic 1920’s style with Charleston moves and all that kind of great stuff. “Cold Feets” was a really great and very well choreographed. He really worked with his actor’s strengths and it all fit really well. Just a really really fantastic job! Congratulations.

SCENIC DESIGN by Robert A. Kovach:

The set was really great in this show. Since everything kind of takes place in The Man in the Chair’s kitchen and living room, it’s hard to recreate this crazy mansion that all the drama is taking place in but it was very well done and looked very nice. One of the main entrances was up-stage centre and usually  that’s where the fridge is located so whenever the Man in the Chair went over to the kitchen, it was a very distant walk and didn’t seem very realistic to me. Once again, I loved the airplane. It was so creative and worked wonderfully. The only thing suspended from the ceiling was a swing and I think the use of it was very good. I loved that screen that showed “the outside”. So you would see stars or a sky sort of blue. It was a very good touch. Everything was just really well-used and it worked very well. A great job.

HAIR AND COSTUME DESIGN by Kurt Alger:

Great and suitable costumes for this show. All the costumes get a close to the Broadway production as possible. They all worked wonderfully. Janet’s costumes for “Show Off” were all cute and worked well with all those crazy quick changes. Trix’s look was great. A very glamourous aviatrix which I liked a lot. Everyone looked great a suited to their role. The attention to detail was wonderful on every costume. I loved the costumes the ensemble had. My fave was the aviatrix ones. The Mullet on the Super was very cliche and funny. All the wigs looked really great and were very nice. A great job.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Overall, it was a lovely and wonderful show. I did get to go to the stage door after and chat with cast members. Most of them were all lovely and I had a nice conversation with most. It was funny to see their reactions when I said I was from Toronto. They kind of treated me a little differently once I told them. It was great. When it comes down to the show itself, I thought it was really great. There were some microphone issues, like with feedback and stuff, but I loved the production. It was beautiful and was just really great. I loved the fact that this show that started in Toronto at the Fringe festival only 4 or 5 years ago has made its way to Maine. It was just such a wonderful thrill. 🙂

~ I apologize to anyone who has checked on the blog for recent updates. I’ve just been very busy lately and I’m only getting back to blogging now. I have loads of reviews to get up so please keep checking back!~

Stay tuned for: – Soulpepper Shows (Billy Bishop Goes to War, The Guardsman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and Antigone)

– Sharron Matthews: Back to Basics (You Pick It, I Belt it night and The Almost Last Show at Statlers)

– Sondheim in September (All 3 concerts!)

Thanks!




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