“I hate theatre.” These words cut through the darkness the opening moments of The Drowsy Chaperone before the lights come up and receive a big laugh from the audience. But for the next ninety minutes as the show unfolds, they could not be further from the truth.
The Drowsy Chaperone tells the story of an eccentric (and perhaps agoraphobic) musical theatre lover as he breaks the fourth wall to play the record of his favorite 1920s musical and walk the audience through it. It is fun, witty, and musically brilliant without a weak number. The cast play actors, playing actors who dance and sing their way through the hilarious “mix-ups” and “mayhem” and the feeling that “the whole world was a party” of the 20s and into a triumphant wedding finale, leaving the audience and lead no choice but to sing and dance along.
The comedic and emotional heart of The Drowsy Chaperone is its lead character and framing device, Man in Chair, whose quirky, eccentric behavior mixed with his deep love for musicals makes him impossible not to root for. Man in Chair is elevated to another level by the incredibly funny and endearing performance by Adam Castrillón who embodies the character so completely that when he speaks to the audience, we feel as though he is personally addressing us and are often compelled to respond (as several did on multiple occasions).
Castrillón never lets Man in Chair be idle; even when full dance numbers are happening, he can be found dancing, lip-synching along or even gazing adoringly at his heroes. Castrillón delivers the quirky and funny dialogue effortlessly, never failing to garner laughs; but he really shines in the emotional climax of the show where he breaks down and reveals some of his traumatic past and how this record has been an escape. The audience hearts break for Castrillón’s Man in Chair as he sobs openly onstage in the unexpectedly heartbreaking final few minutes before the music swells again.
It is nearly impossible to choose any standout actor as each are cast to perfection and dive whole-heartedly into their roles as actors playing actors. The glamourous leading couple, Janet Van de Graaf and fiancé, Robert Martin are played by Logan Eliza and Logan Rice, respectively. These characters could easily be lost in the flurry of wildly memorable side characters, but not in this case. Eliza is a vocal powerhouse throughout, particularly shining in her solos, “Show Off” and “Bride’s Lament,” filling both with her soaring range and sweet tone. Rice channels Fred Astaire in his tap solo (and later on roller skates) while charming his bride-to-be and the entire audience with every brilliant smile.
Both Logans demand the audiences’ attention whenever they are onstage as they perfectly balance playing the characters in the play-within-the-play and their over-the-top, period appropriate portrayals by the 1920 actors of the meta narrative. Eliza’s soon-to-be ex-show girl is delightfully sweet and theatrical, striking a pose every time she stands still and delivering her lines with the broad theatrical style of the time, tempered with a self-awareness that lets the audience know she is in on the joke. Much like Eliza, it takes an excelle
nt actor to play a bad actor and Rice as Robert Martin executes this flawlessly. Robert is a dashing but dim and Rice’s highly theatrical portrayal of him makes the audience unable to do anything but fall in love with his “All-Bright” smile and “Cold Feets.”
There is not a weak member among the rest of the cast. Sadie Alexander shines as the titular Drowsy Chaperone, bringing her to life with her beautifully full vocal performance and equally full use of her comedic prowess. Her love interest and comedic rival, the self-proclaimed “King of Romance” Adolpho, portrayed by Max Cordoba is a show stealer, winning over the audience with his bumbling exploits and extre
me characterization, despite the racially stereotypical nature of the character. Cam Burchard as “the best man, George” brings
the sweet best friend energy expected from a best man and stands out with his tap performance in “Cold Feets.” Charlton Hughes and Leilani Cranford have the hilarious dynamic of the dumb blonde performer and long-suffering producer without feeling condescending. Arabella Chrastina and Brenner Farr are particularly endearing as the forgetful overseer of the wedding and her cantankerous butler, with a highlight being a delightful running joke of spit takes between the two.
The entire supporting cast is brilliant, and it is difficult to name standouts as each held their own, but if any of them stole the show, it would be Elijah Munck and Luke Desmond as the pastry-chef-disguised gangsters. The dialogue and choreography given to these two is clever and funny but earns laughs and cheers with Munck’s and Desmond’s wholehearted commitment to the synchronized movements and dessert themed puns (not to mention Desmond’s facial expressions, which may steal the show themselves).
The Drowsy Chaperone is gloriously self-aware and filled with musical theatre tropes, which are fun for long-term fans of the genre but does not rely on them making it easily accessible to all. It is funny, sweet, and clever with a surprisingly deep finale. We find ourselves falling in love with the songs, story, and characters as Man in Chair leads us through them, helped by the witty humor, hilarious cast of characters, and unstoppable line up of hopelessly catchy songs that, as Man in Chair says, “gives you a little tune to carry around in your head.”
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