The Drowsy Chaperone describes itself as a musical within a comedy. The premise of the show is that the shows narrator, Man in A Chair, seeks to cure his blues by playing to the audience a record of his favourite show, a factional musical set in the 1920’s named ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’ The characters appear in his own apartment as we hear about the bride and groom to be, Janet Van De Graaff, a broadway starlet and Robert Martin, Janet’s producer who sets out to sabotage the wedding, Janet’s chaperone, who proceeds to pose as her charge, a dizzy wannabe star, the Latin lover, a British butler and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs. With characters like this the show within the show sets out to parody musical comedy. It’s a fun show and one which essentially pokes fun at itself.
I must first commend John Woodley who played ‘Man In A Chair.’ John only leaves the stage for a few, very short moments throughout the show. His characterisation from the nervous tics to the sheer expression of delight on his face when watching the characters play out the show is brilliant. I often found myself watching him during numbers, just to see his reaction and he was engaged and in character throughout. His commentary during the show ranges from the wry to the enthusiastic (think Graham Norton at Eurovision) but all with a straight face and completely makes this show. I was also particularly taken by Tiffany Hanks McComas who played the Chaperone whose air of diva crossed with nonchalance was pitched perfectly as well as Amy Fairlie who played Kitty whose comic timing was perfect.
For the pastiche of this show to work to full effect it depends on those within the show being larger than life. Ruby Stokes who played Georgia hit this mark perfectly with her physicality, every step she took and every hand gesture she made being so ridiculous it worked brilliantly. On a few occasions this could have been played up even more by a few other cast members. One example of this is the commentary about Robert Martin’s (the bridegroom) acting talents, or lack of. I would have liked to see Daniel Cox, playing Robert, hammer this home before the Man in the Chairs comment so we could comfortably laugh at the intended wooden and over the top acting with more ease and reassurance.
Under direction of Alexander Tyrell the show flows well with the simple but effective use of scenes taking place in front of tabs during scene changes and the director uses the space well. This is assisted further by the elegant set designed by Dave Kerry, which also helps firmly place us in the 1920’s right from the moment the record starts to play.
The show was choreographed by Ellie Beaumont and the dance sequenced she choreographed for Sophie Guariglia, who played Janet Van De Graaff made the most of Sophie’s (clearly very high) dance ability, making me thoroughly believe that she was a starlet who had men throwing themselves at her. I would have liked to have seen some more precision from the ensemble in the small bits of dance that they had although they did adapt well to the variety of parts they played.
Overall this is a good chance to see a musical you may not have had the pleasure to see before. As the Man in The Chair observes, to him, the purpose of a good musical is to chase the blues away and DAODS production of the Drowsy Chaperone certainly does that.