THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

The Alhambra opened the funniest and most unique musical comedy of the year on October 22, 2014 with “The Drowsy Chaperone,” winner of five Tony Awards. All this zaniness and fun will be on stage at 12000 Beach Blvd in Jacksonville, Florida until November 23rd.

This show opens with “Man in Chair” sitting in a comfortable easy chair, with his phonograph and record collection at his side, in his living room to the left of the stage. We soon learn that the man, played by New York actor Joel Newsome, is a devoted musical theatre fan. He selects a recording of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a 1928 musical comedy for tonight’s listening (the musical is fictitious). He invites the audience to come along with him; as our guide, he will narrate the action. The record begins playing, and the stage comes alive with the story.

Thus, we have a musical within the play, which begins on the wedding day of the gorgeous and glamorous Janet (Becca Gottlieb), a Follies star who is marrying Robert (Brian Beach), a wealthy oil tycoon. Janet is planning to give up her showbiz career after the wedding, much to the dismay of Follies owner Feldzieg (Walter Hook), who is certain the show will fail without her, which will be an unacceptable financial disappointment to his underworld backers.

Two gangsters from the mob disguise themselves as pastry chefs who will be catering the wedding, and arrive on the scene to make sure the marriage does not take place. As played Shain Stroff and Mel Nash II, they are hilarious.

Janet has a chaperone (Terri Dixon) who has been assigned to keep the couple apart on their wedding day to maintain propriety. The chaperone, despite prohibition, likes alcohol more than her job, which is why she is always drowsy.

Due to a hilarious mix-up, the imbibing chaperone manages to seduce the self-proclaimed world’s greatest lover Aldolpho (Alejandro Rodriguez), who was hired by Feldzieg to seduce the would-be bride to break up the impending marriage, thus saving the Follies show.

A crowd of wild and colorful characters will have you in stitches. Take Mrs. Tottendale (Lisa Valdini), who owns the house where the wedding is to take place. She and Underling (Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Matthew Campbell"), her handsome butler, do a sidesplitting routine where vodka is substituted for ice water. They are quite a comic duo as they sing the only love real love song in the show, “Love is Always Lovely.”

George (Chris Warren Murry), the groom’s best friend, is planning the wedding and walks around with strings tied to his fingers to help him remember all his responsibilities. He and Robert do some marvelous tap dancing with the song “Cold Feets.”

All musical comedies of this kind have a dizzy but alluringly attractive chorus girl who is ambitious, although not overly bright. In this show she is a brunette named Kitty (Katie Nettle), who hopes to replace Janet as the star of the Feldzieg Follies.

The final main character to appear is Trix, The Aviatrix, who arrives on stage in her airplane. Playing this role is Angela Roberts, whom you may recall appeared as Doris in the Alhambra’s recent hit show “The Color Purple.”

One thing that is remarkable about this musical is that the main characters all have great voices and almost all have solo numbers of varying lengths. The three energetic ensemble members, Jessella Jaramillo , Michael Lomeka, and Olivia Cherrnyshev, are constantly on and off stage in various roles, with outstanding dancing as they monkey around in Act Two.

A note about the narrator: Joel Newsome is so charismatic in his role that after the show, you may want to invite him out for coffee or home for Sunday dinner.

Set Designer David Dionne, Lighting Designer Craig Scurti, and Sound Designer Jim Jackson have combined their talents to make this a unique theatre experience filled with sight and sound .The choreography by James Kinney is brisk, bouncy, and imaginative. And the Alhambra has spared no expense with the eye-appealing and gorgeous apparel of the era, created by the Costume Crew.

Director/Producer Tod Booth has once again assembled fine actors from across the country, and combined them with excellent local talent, whose names you will recognize, to generate fine comic sparks and some fantastic singing under the direction of Musical Director Cathy Murphy Giddens.

Take a fanciful trip back to 1928 for a lot of laughs. For reservations and information, and, If you want to know what the chef has cooked up for the show, visit alhambrajax.com, or call 904-641-1212. As you might expect, the ending is a happy one with surprises; we will let you discover the details for yourself.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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