Blindfolded roller-skating, tap-dancing and a hilariously offensive Asian interlude. Showstopper’s The Drowsy Chaperone is a whimsical, scatter-brained production backed up by some serious talent.
‘Keep the actors out of the audience… God I did not pay good money to have the fourth wall come crashing down around my ears!’ Lights out in The Annex, the narrator’s shrill voice among the audience proclaims his hatred of shows that break immersion, of shows that fail to transport him from his depression, of shows that no longer provide escapism. The Drowsy Chaperone is all about parody.
An animated über theatre fan, who remains unnamed (played by Danny McNamee), is feelin’ blue, so he decides to show us all his favourite musical; a comically absurd story of marriage and shenanigans with characters ranging anywhere from pun-slinging gangster pastry chefs to a tap-dancing groom and best man, a drunk spinster and a hopeless skirt chasing Latin lover.
Danny is the ‘man-in-chair’, an alarming, almost bipolar obsessive of old-school theatre shows whose living room is the stage for the performance. I am somewhat convinced Danny could kill a man at 10 paces with his screams, but despite the jarring highs of his giddy tonality Danny really kicked the role into overdrive; his punchlines were well delivered, his timing was perfect across the board, his performance was adept. Maybe the role lost some of that sarcastic dryness in the process, but it mattered not, his enthusiasm was contagious.
Outlandish stereotypes abound, showstoppers provided some truly bombastic singing and extravagant dance numbers, the vocal talent was so all-encompassing that it’s hard to discern who had the better pipes. Phoebe Judd as reluctant retiring superstar Janet was a goddamn virtuoso – the musical number ‘Show Off’ was one of the better choreographed routines and utilized best the revolving stage.
Ben Willcocks, as plucky husband to be Robert Martin, was formidable; grinning wide he had the audience giggling as this zany all-American caricature. Robert and sideman George (Andy Banks) also deserve credit for their impressive tap-dancing routine ‘Cold Feets’. Elise Palmer, also, in her brief role as Trix showcased a powerful mouthpiece.
The talented Anna Marie Pinnell was amusing as the Drowsy ‘Where’s the bar?’ Chaperone, a brilliantly dour drunk always on the edge of sarcastic remark. Anna, wholly convincing like some gin-soaked embarrassing Aunt, was the perfect storm of alcohol and spinster wisdoms, her performance and pipes compelling; her rendition of ‘As We Stumble along’ – a whimsical shrug of the shoulders to life’s oddities – was first-rate and uplifting.
And then there was Sevan Keoshgerian as Aldalpho. Mr Keoshgerian was a far sight from his role as the abstinent Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet. Comically bearded with slick hair and open, red-ruffled shirt, he was like some glorious matador (think El Macho from Despicable Me 2). Self-convinced lady killer he swaggered about the set, chest puffed out, hopelessly philandering. Hilarious, despite a slightly repetitive joke or two, he hit every humorous beat – the burlesque latin Don Juan even sang robustly too.
Everyone worked in The Drowsy Chaperone. It was cohesive, and left very little open to critique. The revolving stage piece perhaps was a bit too bothersome within the cramped environment of the Annex theatre, and would sometimes fail, and the set itself could have used a little more design flair. But regardless. Non-issues. A great show that had the audience in stitches, a fitting send off to director Robin Johnson.
Have you seen The Drowsy Chaperone? Let us know what you thought in the comments!