The Drowsy Chaperone
Paul Johnson | 04 Mar 2012 19:01pm
I have wanted to see “The Drowsy Chaperone” for a while, so I was delighted when local group “Fasten Your Seatbelts” announced it was their next production. FYS are an Amateur Theatre Company based in Guildford who put on small scale musical productions – I can assure you they might be small scale but are packed with professionalism.
The Man in Chair (Paul Rodgers-Branch), a mousy, agoraphobic Broadway fanatic, seeking to cure his “non-specific sadness”, listens to a recording of a fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens to this rare recording, he is transported into the musical. The characters appear in his apartment, and it is transformed into an impressive Broadway set with seashell footlights, sparkling furniture, painted backdrops, and glitzy costumes.
The plot of the show-within-a-show centres on Janet Van De Graaff (Caroloine Burgon), a showgirl who plans to give up her career in order to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin (Craig James Morgan). However, Janet is the star of “Feldzieg’s Follies”, and a lot of money is riding on her name to sell the show; and Feldzieg (Phil Street), her producer, is being threatened with bodily harm by two gangsters (Norman Holden and Cameron Rejali) employed by his chief investor, as pastry chefs, these two pun-happy thugs threaten Feldzieg to stop the wedding, in order to ensure Janet’s participation in the next production of Feldzieg’s Follies. In order to save himself, Feldzieg enlists Aldolpho (Nate Rodgers-Branch), a bumbling Latin Lothario, to seduce Janet and spoil her relationship with Robert. Meanwhile, Janet is having doubts about her groom. Disguising herself as a French woman, she tempts Robert into kissing her, and a massive misunderstanding emerges. The ensuing plot incorporates mistaken identities,dream sequences, spit takes, a deus ex machina, an unflappable English butler, an absent-minded dowager, a ditzy chorine, a harried best man, and Janet’s “Drowsy” (i.e. “tipsy”) Chaperone, played in the show-within-a-show by a blowzy Grande Dame of the Stage, specializing in “rousing anthems” and not above upstaging the occasional co-star.
Watching from his seat, Man in Chair is torn between his desire to absorb every moment of the show as it unfolds and his need to insert his personal footnotes and his extensive-but-trivial knowledge of musical performances and actors, as he frequently brings the audience in and out of the fantasy. As the show goes on, more of his personal life is revealed through his musings about the show, until, as the record ends, he is left again alone in his apartment – but still with his record of a long-beloved show to turn to whenever he’s blue.
What I loved most about this production was how effortless it seemed – don’t get me wrong, it was evident that A LOT of production had gone into this show and I know from how they rehearse (every evening for 5 weeks) that the cast were putting everything into it but with such perfect casting came that wonderfully effortless style you only seem to get with West End productions or indeed with shows that have been running for a long period of time.
I loved the set – simple but homely and believable, right down to the working kettle used to make a cup of tea on stage! It was bright and modern but worked so well when being used as the set for the 1920’s story. The cast were able to navigate themselves around it with ease – even when the Aeroplane made its grand entrance at the end.
The cast were strong, which you HAVE to have in “Chaperone” as they have to dip in and out of scenes as and when the “Man in Chair” pauses the action. Paul Rodgers-Brach as Man in Chair was a delight – what a great comic actor with brilliant timing!! He had the hardest role as he had to keep the action going and the story moving along at a good pace and had to concentrate from beginning to end. He acted throughout – even when the action was developing and he was essentially in darkness. Craig James Morgan and Caroline Burgon as the lovers of the piece Robert Martin and Janet Van De Graaf , were lovely – both had strong singing voices and good stage presence and I particularly enjoyed the scene where Robert was blindfolded and on Roller-Skates.
There were two cast members which really stood out for me in this production, the first was Rosie Hatton as Trix the Aviatrix – who was only on stage at the very beginning and very end of the show. Despite her lack of stage time she had such great presence and the best belting voice i’ve ever heard, which really made herself known! The other was the fantastic role of latin lothario Adolpho played with relish by Nate Rogers-Branch. He looked the part and had the most rich male singing voice i’ve heard in a long time. His comedy timing was second to none and his accent was spot on – exactly the over the top acting this part needs – I laughed all the way through his song and was just enthralled when he was on the stage.
I could go on and on about how wonderful this show was – from the costumes which dazzled to the sound and lighting which were on cue and perfectly timed to the great singing and simple but effective choreography. This was my first taste of “Fasten Your Seatbelts” work but it certainly wont be my last. Well done to Director Mandy Grealis and her team for putting on an A* show!!
- : admin
- : 25/02/2012