MAGNA — The Drowsy Chaperone is currently a trending show in Utah, with no less than six companies in the Salt Lake Area performing this show this year. With all of the numerous opportunities available to see The Drowsy Chaperone this year, this fun and humorous version at The Empress Theatre is a good option.
With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, The Drowsy Chaperone is a play-within-a-play as the Man In Chair (played by Skyler Blumel) takes the audience through his favorite musical of all time as he listens to the show on his record player. The show is surprisingly touching and poignant, especially for fellow musical theatre lovers like the Man In Chair, and it is easy to see why this show is a common favorite.
Blumel adds the perfect mixture of warmth, heart, and humor to his character. The moment I walked into the theatre, I was greeted by his character, as he mingled among the audience before the show began. Blumel’s love for the show is palpable, and I adored the sincerity he brought to his character. The set design by Lisa Joy, Craig Stam, and Christopher Fordham is excellent. This intimate theatre has been transformed into a realistic small apartment, where the show takes place. I loved the attention to detail of the set design, including houseplants mixed in among the furniture, picture frames hung on the walls, and even a working coffee pot that was used by the Man In Chair during the show.
The Man in Chair guides the audience through the plot of the show: oil tycoon Robert Martin (played by Patrick Hawkins) is to be married to Broadway star Janet Van De Graaff (played by Alayna Bria). Hilarity ensues as, naturally, many things go wrong on their wedding day. Hawkins has a lovely voice, however he used a very pronounced head bob to manufacture his vibrato. I am unsure whether this was a character choice or just an incorrect singing technique, but it was very distracting and took away from his songs. When I was able to look past this, I appreciated the nice tone quality to his voice and his humorous acting choices. I applaud the confidence with which he roller skated around the stage while blindfolded during “Accident Waiting to Happen.”
The choreography by Wendy Brown is fun and simple. Brown made the choreography entertaining to watch without surpassing the ability of the performers in this cast. I especially loved the tap dancing during “Cold Feets.” The tapping started off very slow and simple, but increased in energy and complexity towards the middle of the song, and I was completely engaged. A less successful number was “Show Off” performed by Janet Van De Graaff and the ensemble. Although she made some good acting choices, Bria was not a strong singer or dancer, and she was considerably outdanced by Kandace Keddington as Kitty. I found the title of this song ironic, as I did not feel that Bria “showed off” at any point during the show, and she was almost lost in the crowd. I also worried for her safety as she was precariously lifted into the air because she appeared very wobbly and unsure of her footing. However, Bria nailed her French accent during “Accident Waiting to Happen,” during which she humorously convinces her blindfolded husband-to-be that she is an unknown French woman in an effort to discover if he truly loves her.
By far, the strongest performer in the cast was Michael Ricks as Adolpho. Ricks is an explosion of comedic seductive energy from the moment he steps onstage. He shares a hilarious scene with The Drowsy Chaperone (played by Candice J. Jorgensen) in which he attempts to seduce her, mistakenly believing that the chaperone is Janet. The chemistry between Ricks and Jorgensen is hilariously electric and had me in stitches throughout the entire scene. I loved Jorgensen’s acting as she comically bit her fingers and stared lustfully at Adolpho. It was completely believable that she was enjoying this seduction. Jorgensen also nails her vocals during her number “As We Stumble Along” and proves herself to be one of the strongest vocalists in the cast. She did struggle slightly with intonation anytime she moved into her upper register, but her powerful and rich belt completely made up for that. Her number received one of the loudest cheers of the entire night.
The costume and wig design by Shatan Duke, Nanny McKenzie (who also directed the show), Cheryl Mecham, and Cheryl Cripps Richardson added to the show beautifully. The gorgeous, sparkly flapper dresses and time-period appropriate wigs set the tone of the 1920s very well. Some of my favorite costumes were the ones worn by Kitty; her costumes were flashy and eye-catching, and perfect for her character who longs to be in the spotlight.
The show finishes strongly with “I Do, I Do in the Sky” performed by Trix the Aviatrix (played by Marie Rose) and the ensemble. Rose is an excellent vocalist, and the cast blended beautifully during this song and held their harmonies well. The number even included a cool airplane on the balcony that the cast sat in and sang from. This was probably the strongest musical number in the show, and I commend music director Shayla Fairclough for her work with the cast on this song. This number closed the show with a bang.
Overall, The Drowsy Chaperone is funny, entertaining, and makes for a fun night out, especially for musical theatre fans. However, those wishing to see this show may want to leave the kids at home. Due to some sexual humor, I would not recommend this show for younger children. But for the adults, the laugh-out-loud humor and heartwarming message of the show make it well worthwhile.