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The Drowsy Chaperone

Review by Chris McGarry

On a Sunday in June, a capacity crowd gathered inside of the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown to watch Bob Martin and Don McKellar’s hilarious musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. The play is a show within a show; it begins with the Man in the Chair (Nicholas Whelan) telling the audience about his favorite 1920s musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. He’s a bit of a snarky individual who loves musical theatre mainly because the characters express their emotions through song.

Following the introduction, the audience found themselves in 1928, during the height of the rousing Roaring Twenties. Though illegal, liquor flows freely and wealth abounds. Janet Van De Graaff (Sherri-Lee Darrach), sexy, glamorous and rich, is the lead member of the group Feldzieg’s Follies. Janet is engaged to Robert Martin, an oil tycoon. The world-famous star’s producer/manager Feldzieg (Melvin Ford) is none too happy about this. His financial well-being depends on Janet continuing in her career. The guests at the wedding include aging hostess Mrs. Tottendale (Amanda Mullally), her servant Underling (Jamie Cordes), Best man George (Evan Getson) as well as staff/reporters, played by Claire Caseley Smith and Lisa Morrison.

On the day of the wedding, Janet’s goofy alcoholic chaperone (played marvellously by Toby Murphy) is tasked with keeping her away from Robert. Determined to make sure his star attraction doesn’t get married, Feldzieg plots to sabotage the wedding. He enlists the help of Adolpho (Jonah Anderson) a dashing though buffoonish Latin film star to seduce Janet. Adolpho goes into Janet’s suite where the chaperone, three sheets to the wind, is lounging about. He mistakes her for Janet. She plays along and allows Adolpho to “seduce” her.

Meanwhile, Janet walks around in the gardens where she meets a blindfolded Robert who is roller skating. She pretends to be a French girl named Mimi. Robert gets carried away by his emotions and kisses her. Janet gets angry and storms off because her fiancé has kissed a “strange French girl.” Kitty (Alexandra Durant) hopes to become Janet’s replacement on the Follies and tries to impress Feldzieg with her “gift” of mind-reading, which isn’t very good.

The Gangsters (Julia MacIver and Paul Hopkins) are furious with Feldzieg’s lack of success in cancelling the wedding and threaten him with a murderous “Toledo Surprise” if he doesn’t come through. Knowing full well he’s in a lot of danger, Feldzieg convinces the mobsters that they have musical talent and the “Toledo Surprise” is turned into a lively, upbeat dance number.

The story ends on a positive note [edited from this report to avoid spoiling].

The Drowsy Chaperone, which plays Wednesdays and Sundays to August 27, featured meticulously-acted, high-energy performances. It was a genuine treat from beginning to end. All of the actors truly got into their roles but it was the agoraphobic, critical Man in Chair and the sloppily drunk Chaperone that caused the audience to continually laugh throughout the performance. The musical numbers including Janet’s raunchy “Show Off” and “I Do, I Do in the Sky” were nothing short of brilliant. Dawn Sadoway, who has directed other productions at the King’s Playhouse, is to be congratulated for putting on such an enriching, thoroughly entertaining show.

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