The Drowsy Chaperone is exactly the style show I desire when heading to a night at the theater. Composed of lighthearted musical flair and dancing of all types, it is a laughter inducing satirical farce, escapism at its finest. The Drowsy Chaperone opened July 16, to a crowd teetering on hipster, in the understated elegance of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, home to Stage 62.
The Drowsy Chaperone is a show within a show- as stated by the Man in the Chair; the story is a series of “mix-ups, mayhem and a gay wedding”. Cast as The Man in the Chair, the narrator per say is Pittsburgh theater veteran Mark Yochum. The character is an older gentleman, alone in his apartment, feeling blue. He decides to coax himself out of his funk by playing the record to his favorite Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. He places the vinyl on the turntable and dreamily the small orchestra, nestled below the stage, strike up their chords. The show comes to life in his living room- all around him, as he recounts the plot, sometimes stopping the record to embellish the tale with inconsequential details about the cast, or to replay a favorite part and at one point to use the bathroom.
The Man in the Chair reveals the notoriety of the 1928 hit Broadway musical. It is the story of Broadway star Janet Van De Graaf, played by Laura Barletta, a familiar face on stage in Pittsburgh, on the day of her wedding. She is ordered to stay away from, her ‘little monkey’, oil tycoon, Robert Martin, played by George Heigel. Heigel, a repeat Stage 62 player has a smile the size of Texas and quirkiness that he infiltrates into his character and makes him just so loveable. My infatuation with his smile begins early, during “Cold Feets”, and continues as he taps his way into my heart. Janet announces to the press she will leave her starring role in the Follies once she is married. Obliged to give explanation to her fans, she erupts into a performance that reveals her talents both as Janet and as Barletta, the performer. The exaggerated Vaudeville-esque number “Show Off”, exposes the scope of Barletta’s talent as well as solidifies the theatrical aptitude of the cast.
The story continues as two gangsters, disguised as pastry chefs; visit Feldzieg, the producer of the Follies. They deliver a message from their boss, who evidently, invested in the act. There is concern that without Janet the Follies will fold. The chefs, played by Chris Martin and Seth Laidlaw keep the audience chuckling with their comedic timing, silly dessert witticisms and over the top costumes; checked knickers, argyle socks and bowties.
The Drowsy Chaperone, played by Becki Toth, Pittsburgh renowned show business maven, raises this Stage 62 performance to a whole new level of excellence. Her voice has power and strength and packs the theater with solid quality professionalism. Fortunately, for the entertainment of the audience, the Chaperone’s skills at chaperoning are challenged by her alcohol consumption, hence the drowsy trait. We learn more about it during her, ‘rousing anthem about alcoholism’ in her piece, “As We Stumble Along”. Aldolpho, hired by Feldzieg to sabotage the wedding of Janet and Robert, is a classic theatrical egocentric whose booming voice almost seems out of range for the small Carnegie theater. Rob James, cast as the self-proclaimed Latin lover Aldolpho, a local thespian, seasoned Stage 62 performer is immersed in the world of stage and performing. He clearly has the ability to carry a troupe and rival any Pittsburgh theater company.
This show would not be complete without each and every cast member. The energetic ensemble and secondary characters fulfill their roles with vigor and as the show concludes, the audience applause nearly drowns out the orchestra.
The set is not too complex, but offers enough to keep the audience engaged in every moment of the act. Director Stephen Santa has a highly regarded list of credits that continue to grow with The Drowsy Chaperone added to his resume. His involvement with Stage 62 is a blessing, bringing the theater on a bluff in Carnegie, the attention of a diverse crowd of dramatic arts lovers.
Bright and breezy songs, jazz age standard musical and dance style and slapstick comedy make The Drowsy Chaperone a night of pure entertainment, helping, ‘you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world’.
Stage 62’s presentation of The Drowsy Chaperone runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday July 16- 19 and July 23- 26 at Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall. Visitwww.stage62.org for tickets.
Performance Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015