Community Theater Review: The Drowsy Chaperone (Narberth Community Theatre)

The five time 2006 Tony winning Drowsy Chaperone is one of my favorite vehicles for escaping the challenges of real life into the frothy world of music theater. That is also the premise for the screwball “musical within a comedy” where the unnamed Man in Chair (exquisitely played by Keven Walters) escapes his real life and ruined relationships by leading the audience through his favorite roaring 20s musical romp. Mr. Walters moves seamlessly back and forth between his harsh reality andmusical magic.

The play is the thing as we follow jazz age actress Janet Van de Graaf (Megan Smith O’Sullivan) wrestle with either remaining a theater star or giving it all up to love by marrying Robert Martin (Christopher Betzler). Ms. O’Sullivan has the pipes and the sparkle to embody the rising star and Mr. Betzler balances her with comedic charm. But the title role is the Chaperone made “drowsy” by prohibition era gin. Laura Cilia is deliciously naughty and her anthem to alcohol is at once rousing and ridiculous.

A singular strength of the book by Robert Martin and Don McKellar is the zany caricatures of those attending the wedding.While each in turn add wit and fun to the nuptials, Mary Beth Gries as the ditzy Kitty (what a great comedienne) and Danny Seifert as the lecherous lothario Adolpho reach across the footlights and delight the audience. Laura Mancano’s luscious mezzo makes a memorable cameo. Add to these the joyous choreography by Katrina B. Brown and authentic 1920s costumes by Justin Hewitt and you have the makings of a great night out.

Despite minor issues with the sound and occasional difficulty with balance, music director Patrick D’Amato does justice to the award winning best original score (music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison). Director Danielle Lachallcoordinates the transition from drab apartment to the world of imagination and back so well that in the end the two simply must meld together.

I found the set design somewhat one dimensional. The album covers of current musicals adorning the apartment were somewhat distracting given the Man in Chair’s distain for Broadway’s more recent offerings. But on the whole no minor flaws get in the way of escaping and enjoying this laugh filled production.

The show runs through March 21, with Friday and Saturday performances beginning at 8pm and Sunday performances beginning at 3pm. Ticket prices range from $16.00-$24.00 and can be purchased via the website at narberthcommunitytheatre.org.

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