Gananoque, ON, Jun 22, 2009 — The Drowsy Chaperone runs at the Springer Theatre at the 1000 Islands Playhouse through August 1. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.
Don't waste a minute and order tickets for the terrific musical now in the Springer Theatre at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. (By the way, don't miss SUMMER OF MY AMAZING LUCK in the Firehall - another winner.) THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, a Canadian musical with book by Bob Martin and Don McKeller and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison began as a unique wedding present in 1998. It ended up on Broadway in 2006 and won five Tony awards including best book and best score. This tribute to musicals of the 1920s begins with a theatre geek sitting in his apartment rhapsodizing about his favorite classic musical, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. As he plays the record of the show, the show within a show comes alive.
The apartment goes away to reveal an elegant Art Deco set designed by Steve Lucas, complete with a winding staircase, marble floor and the tuxedo-clad band on an upper platform. In Act II he even manages to transform a giant wedding cake into an airplane. Mr. Lucas is also responsible for the excellent lighting.
Erika Connor, new to the playhouse, has designed splendid costumes. Even the wigs look great. Her changes for Janet, beautifully played by Marisa McIntyre, in "I Don't Wanna Show Off" are sparkling and clever. Her two red outfits for the Drowsy Chaperone are absolutely gorgeous. If I were taller I'd want them.
Musical Director Sandy Thorburn has put together a spiffy band with Scott Davey on keyboard 2, Janet Macrae on trumpet, Jonathan Stewart tripling on reeds and Greg Runions on percussion. There are a couple of occasions when the singers are over-powered by the band, but in general the balance is good, as are the vocal numbers. I got the giggles watching him conduct the trumpet wah-wahs.
The entire cast is excellent, but it's so large I can't mention everyone. Larry Herbert is funny and appropriately smarmy as the Latin lothario, Aldolpho. Marcia Tratt as a confused dowager and Scott Hurst as Underling, her butler, do a fine job on "Love Is Always Lovely" and on their spit takes. (I'm not going to explain that - it's an old vaudeville term.)
Ramona Gilmour-Darling gives a first-rate performance as Kitty, a feather-brained chorine. She's especially good in "Toledo Surprise." As Robert, newcomer Sean Ban Beaton comes across as very likable and charming - sort of a young Jimmy Stuart. He sings well, dances well and even manages a number blindfolded on roller skates.
Jan Alexandra Smith is dynamite as the Drowsy Chaperone. She's a terrific subtle comedienne and is a knockout in "As We Stumble Along." As Man in Chair, David Talbot has a wonderful air of naive enthusiasm. He's thoroughly sincere when he decries the death of the overture, that he calls, ". . . a musical appetizer; a pu-pu platter of tunes."
Stratford veteran Dayna Tekatch has done a terrific job with the choreography, especially on "Cold Feet," "Toledo Surprise," "I Don't Wanna Show Off' and - well, I just kept writing down "great choreography."
Director Kathryn MacKay, in her first crack at a musical, has done a masterful job. Her direction is always based on the truth of the characters and this is no exception. We believe these characters and so the poignant ending is truly effective.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, with its silly truncated Act II opening number followed by a number even sillier, is a tribute to the joy of musical theatre. To quote Noel Coward, musical theatre is "gaily irrational to the point of lunacy." Relax and just enjoy this smart and funny musical.
On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE gets five very tasty fish. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.