‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ Nostalgic Romp Will Win Your Heart

The Man in the Chair (Henry Knutsen), center, lives his dream. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

Robert Martin ((Patrick MacDonald), Janet Van De Graff (Rose Corrigan) and The Man in the Chair (Henry Knutsen) in ‘An Accident Waiting to Happen.’ Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

 

Review by BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post

There’s nothing like a show where the cast seems to be having as much fun as the audience. Everyone had a rollicking good time at the opening of “The Drowsy Chaperone” Friday night when the Dixon Community Players opened at The Toolshed Theatre in Dixon.

Designed and directed by Holly Haas of Los Alamos, with choreography by Yesca Sullivan, the production is a frothy, full-bodied sip of champagne from a slipper. With an 18-member cast and a seven piece orchestra this is a big production in a little theater. Better get your tickets now, because you don’t want to miss it.

With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, the show is a parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s. The show won two Tony awards for its 2006-2007 Broadway run.

As the lights come up, we’re introduced to “The Man in the Chair,” a middle-aged musical theatre fan who’s feeling a big blue. To cheer himself up, he invites the audience on a journey, as he plays a record of his favorite musical, the (fictional) 1928 hit, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The full-scale production comes to life in his down-at-the-heels New York apartment.

Henry Knutsen is the heart and soul of the production as “The Man in the Chair.” By turns fussy, excited, and nostalgic, he makes us love his favorite musical the way he does. His asides about the production are also some of the funniest moments in the show.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” takes us to the upscale wedding of rich boy Robert Martin (Patrick MacDonald) and showgirl Janet Van De Graff (Rose Corrigan). The actors have great chemistry and manage to make us believe in their romance in spite of some of the silliest goings on you’re likely to see on the stage.

MacDonald, who comes directly from playing Durdles in “Edwin Drood” in Los Alamos, is terrific as the endearingly goofy bridegroom. He sings, taps and roller skates into our hearts. Corrigan is a spritely, winning Janet. Her sweet voice makes even the silliest lyrics believable. Will she give up the limelight for Robert? We’re not quite sure.

This musical has everything: a scheming producer (Richard Martin), a ditzy flapper (Claire Singleton), two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs (Winston Earl Woods and Kile Uhlenbrock), a confused hostess (Kay Peters Johnson) and her faithful underling (David Rigsby), a worried best man (Chuck Wright), a Latin lover (Simon Feavearyear), a daring aviatrix (Holly Haas), and of course the drowsy (read tipsy) chaperone (Kristen Woolf).

They perform a total of 12 musical numbers, each more over the top than the last, including a touching love lament about monkeys and the completely nonsensical “Toledo Surprise.”

In between musical numbers, the plot of boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, moves along at a merry pace, involving two cases of mistaken identity and winding up with a quadruple wedding, after which the entire cast flies off to Rio for the honeymoon.

Feavearyear as the wildly overplayed Latin lover Aldolpho was simply hilarious. More big laughs were to be had from Woolf as the scene-stealing diva who is the Tipsy Chaperone. She has a big stage presence and a big operatic voice to match. As the ditzy flapper Kitty, Singleton is another comedic stand out.

Classical pianist Roger Lambert was the production’s musical director and orchestra leader. The live 1920s music added a great deal of energy to the production.

If some of the cast names sounded familiar, it’s no surprise. Not only MacDonald, but Corrigan, Singleton and Uhlenbrock are from Los Alamos. So are two members of the orchestra, Rob Durham and Joyce Guzik on reeds.

By the end of the show, you’ll love “The Drowsy Chaperone” almost as much as the Man in the Chair does. Travel down to Dixon and have some fun.

Remaining performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (Oct. 19, 25 and 27), with two Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27 at DCP’s new theater home, the Toolshed, #68 on highway 75 in Dixon.

Ticket prices are $12 for adults or $10 for students and seniors. They may be purchased at the Embudo Valley Library or with PayPal™ at www.dixonplayers.com. Reservations may be made by calling (505) 579-9102 for payment at the door. Unreserved tickets may also be purchased at the door, but it is strongly recommended to make advance reservations or purchases as seating will be limited due to the size of the orchestra.

Janet, (Rose Corrigan) gets some ‘sage’ advise from The Drowsy Chaperone ((Kristen Woolf) as Adolpho (Simon Feavearyear) listens. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

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