by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Theatre Jacksonville closes out its season with the blockbuster musical The Drowsy Chaperone running through June 25, at 2032 San Marco Boulevard. Call 396-4425 for information and reservations. This delightfully funny show ran for 18 months on Broadway beginning in May 2006, won multiple Tony awards, and has been very popular with professional, community and dinner theatres all over the country. No matter your age, this is a show that is lively and extremely entertaining.
The show opens as the “Man In Chair” (Geoffrey King) on the left side of stage, a devoted musical theatre fan, selects the album of a (fictitious) 1928 musical The Drowsy Chaperone. As he sits back in his chair to listen to and visualize the action of this zany comedy, he invites us (the audience) to come along with him as a guide as he narrates the action. As the vinyl disc begins, the stage behind him comes to life with the music and story of The Drowsy Chaperone. The musical within the play is a zany plot about Janet (Taylor Lee Horne), a Follies star who wants to give up show business to marry handsome Robert Martin (Gary Lee Webber) much to the chagrin of Follies owner Feldzieg (David Sacks), who is certain the show will flop and be a financial disappointment to his underworld backers. Two hilarious gangsters (David Paul and Hector Gonzalez) disguised as pastry chefs come on the scene to make sure the marriage does not take place. The bride-to-be has a chaperone in the person of TJ newcomer Kathy Sanders, whose job is to keep the couple apart until the wedding. Unfortunately, the chaperone likes liquor more than her job, which is why she is drowsy. However, she manages to seduce the world’s greatest lover Aldolpho (Rob Harrington), who was hired to seduce the would-be bride and break up the marriage. Sounds complicated but it is not, anyway you have the marvelous Mr. King, our Man In Chair, explaining the action as it progresses.
A host of wild characters will have you in stitches. Take Mrs. Tottendale (Cheri Walker) the owner of the house where the wedding is to take place. She and her butler Underling (Evan Gould) do an uproarious routine where vodka is substituted for ice water. Ms.Walker and Mr. Gould sing the only love song in the show “Love is Always Lovely.” They make quite a comic duo.
George (Joe Walz) is the groom’s best friend and is planning the wedding; he walks around with strings tied to all his fingers so he can remember everything he must do. The tap dance team of Walz and Webber perform a showstopper number “Cold Feets” that was a crowd favorite.
All shows of this type have to have a dumb, dizzy, statuesque blonde and Julia Fallon as Kitty fits the role to perfection.
Janaye Rodgers returns to the TJ stage for a second time, after her debut as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet last season. As Trix The Aviatrix, she shows off her excellent singing voice and stage presence. Rounding out the featured roles is Erick Velasquez in his Theatre Jax debut playing the Superintendent.
The hard working ensemble performed at breakneck speed and efficiency through many costume changes. They included Kristen Ashton, Kayce Clark, Alejandro Rodriguez, Zeek Smith, Ashley Turner and J’royce Denard Walton.
The Drowsy Chaperone demands a cast that can work as a tight-knit ensemble as one weak line can undermine the entire performance. Director Dave Alan Thomas, in his Theatre Jacksonville debut, has his actors working like an expensive Swiss watch with perfect timing and lots of energy and enthusiasm.
Musical Director Samuel Clein, who has graced the stages of just about every theatre in the North Florida area, certainly performs up to the high standard we have come to expect from him. Clein, on piano, led the orchestra that included Lindsey Thompson (Keyboard), Damon Martin (Bass), Landon Baker (Drums), and James Harris (Percussion).
The dancing in this show is outstanding thanks to the debut of Choreographer Curtis Williams. One of the stars of this production has be the period costumes in gorgeous colors by amazing costume designer Tracy Olin. In addition to creating and designing the many costumes (over a hundred were required) for this lavish production, Tracy is the full time Box Office Manager for TJ and has been in rehearsal for one of the leading roles in Tommy, the upcoming musical at Players by the Sea.
The set and lighting design by the Kelly and Jeff Wagoner were skillfully designed to highlight different settings and support the numerous entrances and exits of multiple characters.
The Drowsy Chaperon is a delightful fast-paced production that is sure to please everyone, especially musical theatre fans. It features fine voices, excellent dancing and superb comic acting. Don’t miss this one; it is one of the funniest and most innovative shows of the year.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM