Theatre Review: Musical Theatre Comedy Served on a Silver Platter

“With the houselights down, a man in a chair appears on stage and puts on his favorite record: the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical. The recording comes to life and The Drowsy Chaperone begins as the man in the chair looks on. Mix in two lovers on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man, a desperate theatre producer, a not-so-bright hostess, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a misguided Don Juan and an intoxicated chaperone, and you have the ingredients for an evening of madcap delight.”- Summary from Music Theatre International.

Going to The Candelight Theatre for an evening of dinner and a show has taken on a whole new meaning to me.  It is now the place to go and see Philly area’s newest talent!  With my last visit, I was introduced to Tristan Horan and Allie Boyle in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and with The Drowsy Chaperone I was sucker punched hard! This go ‘round served me Connor McAndrews (Man in Chair) on a silver platter dished with a side of Christina Fuscallaro (Kitty) and Tiffany Dawn Christopher (The Drowsy Chaperone) that was spiced up by Kevin Dietzler (Robert Martin) in taps!

Photo credit: Tisa Della-Volpe

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good old fashioned musical theatre comedy that was also fresh and new.  The Drowsy Chaperone, I had never seen or heard, had me cackling from start to finish. So much so, a nice gentleman in front of me was none-to-pleased at my loud bellow behind his ears, so I toned it down as much as I could for his sake.  I was in good company at Table 10 because the man next to me was in for the ride with me.  Although I don’t think he had his seat belt on.  Think Donald Connor for Connor McAndrews.  He entranced the entire theatre with his mastery of story-telling that if felt like the man next to me was having a one on one conversation with him on stage.  Every question, McAndrew’s character asked the audience, he was the first to respond.  The rest of the audience followed suit, including me!

Connor McAndrews (Man in Chair); Photo credit: Tisa Della-Volpe​

I have a long history with director Peter John Rios.  I’ve worked for him as a stage manager on several musical comedies in years past.  This was my first time seeing his work having not been a part of his process.  You can see his characteristic style from scene to scene.  Rios is a Director/Choreographer who often re-stages original Broadway material.  This was no different, however, he masters musical comedy.  The pratfalls, the triple takes, the spit takes, the timing are all things that need to be treated like choreography. Every moment and every nuance was mapped out with great delivery by Rios. His influence was most noticeable on character actor Topher Layton (Aldolpho).  Layton’s Lothario was over the top comic gold. A guffawed scene with Tiffany Dawn Christopher’s The Drowsy Chaperone was also a master class in physical comedy. Comedy duo and real live partners Victoria Healy and Max Redman as Gangsters was a sheer delight.

Tiffany Dawn Christopher and Topher Layton; Photo credit: Tisa Della-Volpe​

As with every production I’ve seen thus far at The Candelight Theatre, the costumes are wonderful and aid to the landscape of the piece.  Timothy Lamont Cannon’s design was no exception. His ability to take all body types and feature them appropriately is a welcomed talent. Lisa Miller Challenger’s Wigs and Hair design was effective throughout.  The one hindrance was the wig worn by leading player Audrey Simmons (Janet Van De Graaff), as it drew my attention away from Simmons’ portrayal. Lighting by Mike Cristella was effective but sporadic patches of darkness was questionable. His design complimented Jeff Reim’s scenic design which I was gleefully enjoying the entire evening.  Without spoiling, picture a large living room that transforms with flappable walls and an magical kitchen that was decorated with foresight.

Audrey Simmons; Photo credit: Tisa Della-Volpe​

Having mentioned sound in past reviews from The Candlelight Theatre, I am happy to report that the balance was fantastic and actors were crystal clear. Perhaps it was a magical combination of Dennis Mahoney (Sound Designer) and Eric Longo (Music Director) that made this the best sounding and vocally buoyant production I’ve yet to see at The Candlelight.

As an avid theatre-goer, I want to commend this theatre for continuing to rotate their directors and designers as well as bring on new ones.  New directors attract new talent which has been abundantly clear in the past few productions I have attended. Some familiar talents like Lindsay Mauck (Mrs. Tottendale), Frank Shierloh (Feldzieg) and Anthony Connell (Underling) to name a few, always deliver. Tiara Greene’s (Trix) voice is NOT to be missed.   Although a small roll, she leaves a big mark!  Shaun Yates (Geroge) taps well along side Kevin Dieztler.The ensemble consisting of Joe Kinnon, Elias Rivera, Faith Sacher, and Erin Waldie were exceptionally cast to fill out this musical romp.

Frank Schierloh, Christina Fuscellaro, and Lindsay Mauck; Photo credit: Tisa Della-Volpe​

The Drowsy Chaperone continues it’s run through April 22nd.  Keep your eyes peeled for BOGO sales by following them on FB.

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