It seems I have a new favorite musical. After seeing Beef and Boards’ production of The Drowsy Chaperone, it cannot be any other way. The show is so unique, so inspired, that my first exposure to it left me searching for accurate words to describe it. But I will try.
To begin with, the show has a rather unusual history. It started in 1997 as a spoof of musicals devised for a bachelor party celebration for Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf, two Canadian performers. The idea was then adjusted to be a Fringe Festival show in Toronto. Following the Fringe offering, it came to the attention of theatre producer David Mirvish, who put together an enlarged 1999 production for a Toronto theatre – which led to a more fully scaled version in 2001, with subsequent successes in Los Angeles in 2005 and Broadway in 2006. It won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book and also won a collection of Drama Desk awards.
The Beef and Boards presentation of the show, under brilliant direction and choreography by Ron Morgan, is top level. David Schmittou, recently here seen in Lend Me a Tenor and The Sound of Music, is absolutely perfect as Man in the Chair, our guide for a rather unique stage premise as he shares his infatuation for a recording of a 1920’s musical with us. Schmittou’s uncanny choices for his character’s nebbish and unsure persona are completely wonderful and entertaining. It all seems entirely “in the moment”, which only certifies Schmittou’s consummate stage talents.
The “recorded” cast, who spring forth onstage once the record is played, is also very gifted. All have wonderfully strong vocal skills and all have taken well to the burlesque qualities of the script. Laura Douciere, in her B&B debut, takes on the main role as bride-to-be Janet Van de Graaff, who will give up her stage career to marry the dapper Robert Martin, played by Timothy Ford. Their wedding is set to occur at the home of Mrs. Tottendale, portrayed by B&B favorite Suzanne Stark with the aid of her employee, Underling – the always amusing John Vessels. Add in a nervous and threatened producer, Mr. Feldzieg (Douglas E. Stark), a hopeful showgirl, Kitty (Deb Wims), a rather over-blown gigolo named Aldolpho (Alan M-L Wager), the ever drowsy chaperone (B&B newcomer Victoria Weinberg), best-man-to-all George (Ian Frazier), two pastry loving gangsters (Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood) and Aviatrix Trix (Kendra Lynn Lucas – of O’ Holy Night fame) and you have a rousing, hilarious story setting which pokes fun at it’s own genre – the show-stopping, shoe-tapping musical! There are absolutely no weak links in this incredible cast. The satirical songs and dance numbers are all top-notch, and the fun-filled story line is well executed with just the right touch of spoofishness and parody. And all of this is well supported by the smartly adept ensemble and by Kristy Templet’s amazing 5 piece orchestra. Bright, imaginative costumes by Jill Kelly, on the versatile set design by Michael Layton, complete the picture; and Chef Odell Ward’s fine buffet completes the evening.
Bottomline: I am so happy to have seen this much anticipated production – I was totally taken in by the very unique qualities of the book and by the highly talented cast. If you are unfamiliar with this show, be sure to give it a chance on your entertainment calendar. I think you will be very pleased that you did!
You may have to rush a bit to get on the reservation rolls. This production has a slightly limited time frame – B&B is presenting only 39 shows of The Drowsy Chaperone. The show only runs through May 10, so be sure to call the box office soon at 317-872-9664. You can visit B&B online at http://www.beefandboards.com for more information. Don’t miss this great show!
* – Photos by Julie Curry