A blindfolded roller skater, an aviatrix, gangsters disguised as chefs, a hostess with memory loss, a dashing film star, a glamorous showgirl, a handsome bridegroom, a bumbling best man, dancing servants and, of course, a drunken chaperone who takes her responsibilities "very seriously." Put them all together, add music and "The Drowsy Chaperone" comes to life, with commentary by Man in Chair.
This parody of the American musical comedy of the 1920s is to appear on the Heidelberg University stage at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Gundlach Theatre.
Based on the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, "The Drowsy Chaperone" is a show within a show.
PHOTO BY ROB LEDWEDGE
Leigh Barthel, as Kitty, dances with Kyle Adam, as Man-in-Chair, in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
PHOTO BY ROB LEDWEDGE
Darcianne Allen (right), as Janet Van de Graaff, looks on as the Drowsy Chaperone (Dakota Thorn) makes a point.
The theater goes dark as Kyle Adam begins his Man-in-Chair narrative. He describes his favorite Jazz Age musical and bemoans the modern-day decline of the genre. The lights come up and the man decides to play the audience a recording from the show. Gradually, the live orchestra begins to play over the scratchy record as a chandelier is lowered and characters appear on the stage to recreate the original production.
"The Drowsy Chaperone" features the many theatrical cliches typical of 1920s shows. The actors stop in tableau from time to time as the man shares his commentary on the music, story and actors. He even takes to the stage himself and joins the cast singing and dancing at various points.
Heidelberg's production is being directed by Carol Dusdieker, assistant professor of voice, with musical direction by Paul Mayhew, assistant professor of chorus and music education. Greg Ramsdell, assistant professor of choral music education, is the piano accompanist.
The story begins with Amy Berger as Mrs. Tottendale, bustling about singing "My Dress." She knows it is a special occasion but has forgotten what it is. Ryan Ladina as the Underling reminds her she is to host a wedding at her estate.
The wedding party arrives with Tom Borham as the groom, Robert Martin, and AJ Lacefield as George, the best man. The flustered George has strings tied on every finger to remind him of his many responsibilities. The strings serve as foreshadowing of chaos to come.
Two wedding guests are Ben Calvert as Feldzeig and Leigh Barthel as Kitty. They are show-business friends of the bride (Janet), who is leaving "The Follies" to marry Robert. The ditsy Kitty is anxious to take Janet's place in the show. Feldzeig is desperate to convince Janet to stay, especially after two gangsters, played by Jacob Woost and Tyler Maynard, show up disguised as "pastry chefs" and threaten him. It seems the show's financial backer is leaning on Feldzeig to stop the wedding and keep Janet as the star.
Next, Jonathan Vestal as Aldolpho, sweeps into the hall. The reason for the presence of this Latin Casanova-type is never clearly explained - but who cares? Feldzeig persuades Aldolpho to prove his sexual prowess by seducing the bride.
As they exit, the bride arrives. Darcianne Allen portrays the glamorous showgirl, Janet Van de Graaff, with the Drowsy Chaperone in tow. Dakota Thorn makes the most of her role as the tipsy chaperone more interested in the wedding "refreshments" than in the young woman she is supposed to keep away from the groom.
Her main concern? "Where's the bar?"
The sound of an engine overhead signals the arrival of Melissa Tippin as Trix the Aviatrix and Scott Cook as the superintendent. Trix has "dropped in" to check on the progress of the festivities, delivers a song, then dashes away with a promise to return. She has a small but pivotal role later in the show.
Completing the cast in various roles are Sarah Bolen, Tess Gerber, Makenzie Dietrick, Kelly Devine and Adam Hoover.
Memorable musical numbers punctuate the show. During "Cold Feet," the jittery Robert and George dance to relax a bit, when Underling interrupts the routine with a few fancy steps of his own.
Then there is "I Don't Want to Show Off," in which Janet demonstrates some of her star-quality skills even as she purports to be giving them up forever. That leads her to question whether Robert loves her for real or for her glamour.
When Janet seeks advice, the chaperone delivers "As We Stumble Along." The title describes the scene.
Kitty's "mind reading" segment, the "spit-take" scene, the cooking metaphors and the skipping record are other points to note. One cannot omit Aldolpho's hilarious duets first with Feldzeig and then with the chaperone, which cannot be adequately described in words. They need to be seen and heard.
"Toledo Surprise" involves the entire company, including Man in Chair. The joyous production number provides a contrast to the shocking line - "The wedding is off!"
And all of this is only in Act I.
The audience will appreciate the quick scene changes, glittery costumes, special effects and an energetic young cast. The show concludes with not one but three weddings, but this reporter is not saying who marries whom. As Man in Chair would say, "What more do you need for an evening's entertainment?"
Suggested ticket price is $10 for adults and $5 for students with ID. For additional information, call the box office at (419) 448-2305.