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Monday, 01 October 2012 21:04

A record for fun in 'The Drowsy Chaperone'

Written by Bob Wilcox
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The Details

"The Drowsy Chaperone" is, deliberately, a silly musical. It is a silly musical "within" as its subtitle says, "a comedy." The musical purports to be from the 1920s. The comedy is from today. It has one character. The musical is his favorite show, and he plays his LP of the show for us, magically evoking the original cast to perform it for us.

Yes, his LP. Vinyl. The man is either super-hip or very out-of-it.

The whole show, concocted by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, who wrote the book, and Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, who wrote the music and lyrics, pokes fun at the silliness of those 1920s musicals, whose plots featured outrageous coincidences and non sequiturs, and it pokes fun at the people, like our host, who love those musicals.

But it loves those musicals too. It knows that those plots were never meant to be taken seriously. They were just excuses for songs, jokes, and virtuoso performances.

"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a little tricky for a community theatre group like The Alpha Players of Florissant to tackle, because it needs people who can do justice to those songs, jokes, and virtuoso performances.

The Alpha Players either got lucky or got good - probably both. They found a director, Sharon Cotner, who knew the style that "The Drowsy Chaperone" needed. She got her cast to play that style - some better than others, but all good enough. Margaret Borgemeyer certainly has the style. She's Janet Van De Graaf, the Broadway star who's getting married. The very young Drew Mizell has the style down too. He's Robert Martin, the groom - yes, the same name as one of the authors; the show was born as a wedding present to the real Bob Martin and his bride, the real Janet Van De Graaf. Tanya Burns is terrific as the eponymous drowsy chaperone, tasked with keeping bride and groom apart until the wedding. Sue Buydos is appealingly vague as Mrs. Tottendale, hosting the wedding in her mansion. And Joe Connor elevates his nose at the proper angle as her butler, named Underling. Mark Moore plays the requisite Latin Lover, with a deliberately terrible wig, and Omega Jones and Joey Bogdajewicz play a pair of gangsters who are posing as pastry chefs - don't ask. As Janet's Broadway producer, Ray Martin schemes to stop the wedding that will end the career of his star and meal ticket. Maria Jeffery accompanies him as his blonde and vacant girlfriend. When the electric power goes out, George Lewandowski gets an amusing turn as the apartment building's maintenance man. Ebony Easter unfurls a rafters-rattling voice as Trix the Aviatrix, a true dea ex machina; doesn't every '20s musical have to have an airplane?

Patrick Kerwin welcomes us as the man who loves the musical. Kerwin is warm and friendly and funny, a gracious host. This is Kerwin's second time in the role, and lovable as he is, it wouldn't hurt if he extended his range sometimes beyond arm-waving.

Jim Kimker plays the Best Man. Kimker is also, with Monette Dennis and Madison Dennis, the choreographer. Alpha Players got lucky with its choreographers, too - crucial in this show. They've created exciting tap numbers and simple but amusing '20s-style routines that the cast members toss off with flair.

The score of "The Drowsy Chaperone", like the book, both mocks and celebrates those '20s musicals. And when, briefly, our host puts the wrong LP on his stereo, if the music doesn't remind you of a certain musical about an Asian king and a British teacher, you haven't been paying attention. At Alpha, music director Mike Blackwood and vocal director Talya Perry help the cast to bring out the score's charms.

Director Cotner and Greg Jeffery designed the versatile set, though the texturing of flats appears to be a lost art in community theatres these days. Barbara Langa provided the witty period costumes, Stephanie Draper the lights, and Brian Borgstede the sound.

The Alpha Players have given this silly musical the respect it deserves.

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