The WCU School of Stage and Screen’s Musical Theater program presented “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the John W. Bardo Arts Center Theatre on April 11 through 13 at 7:30 p.m. and April 14 at 3 p.m.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is touted as a “musical within a comedy”, and it definitely lived up to its tagline. Terrence Mann and Claire Eye directed the show, with Nathan Thomas as music director and Karyn Tomczak as choreographer. Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison wrote the music and lyrics. It also included a 13-member pit orchestra. On opening night, it was performed to a partially fully auditorium.
Unlike many musicals, “The Drowsy Chaperone” did not take itself very seriously, and the narrator, known only as Man in Chair, played by senior Jonathan Cobrda, provides a running commentary throughout the musical. His commentary included notes and histories about the fictitious actors and actresses of his favorite musical, the nature of theater in general and what he particularly likes about certain scenes among other things. He also has very poignant thoughts on the nature of marriage.
When the actual play opens, it is the day of a joyous occasion: a Prohibition-era wedding. Broadway star Janet Van de Graaf, played by senior Charity Ruth Haskins, has decided to give up her career in favor of marrying oil tycoon Robert Martin, who was played by junior Joshua Jones. Martin’s best friend George, played by senior Peter O’Neal, is in charge of getting everything ready for the wedding. He also assigned himself the duty of keeping the bride and groom apart before their wedding, getting help from the Drowsy Chaperone, who was played by Allison Dixon.
There is plenty of conflict in the play, in the form of gangsters whose boss wants Van de Graaf to stay in show business (Joe Callahan and Tyler Mckenzie), Adolpho the philanderer (Will Bryant) who is asked to sleep with the bride and negate the wedding, a ditzy blonde wannabe showgirl (Lindsey Diane Cline), and Mrs. Tottendale, a hostess who can’t seem to remember much of anything (Madeline Seagle).
The chaperone’s entire job is to keep the bride and groom apart, but due to her intoxication from champagne and her distraction by Adolpho, she does an abominable job of it. The wedding is jeopardized, called off and then put back on, with all kinds of ridiculous chaos intertwined between the two extremes.
The musical featured songs such as “Cold Feets,” “Love is Always Lovely” and “As We Stumble Along.” They generally featured one member, and then the rest of the company joined in, with the exception of “Accident Waiting to Happen,” which was sung by Martin and Van de Graaf to each other. All of the songs were excellently sung and performed, despite the difficulty of some of the 1920s dance moves.
It was a fantastic show that kept the audience laughing and sympathizing with the Man in Chair, who was “blue.” The costuming and set were simply amazing, and brought back the Broadway musical style with actors tap dancing as they delivered their lines, and the whole cast being on stay for many of the musical numbers.
Lynn Drost said, “It was fabulous. It had lots of comedic parts, and was very interesting.”
At the end of the last performance on Sunday, everyone watched as the graduating musical theater seniors bowed for their final curtain call on the Bardo Arts Center stage. Many struggled to hold back tears as they came together, hand-in-hand, for their last performance. Afterwards, proud parents and teary friends took rounds of pictures in the main lobby to remember the momentous occasion.
The graduating seniors, including Cobrda, Haskins, Callahan and O’Neal, will walk across the stage one last time to receive their diplomas. They will celebrate and head out into their futures, as the popular song from the musical said, “As we stumble along/’cross life’s crowded dance floors/As we push and we shove/we live and we learn/And when we finally leave the bar/And we see that morning star/we pull our boot straps up/and homeward turn.”