The Drowsy Chaperone
There are some rare productions that, as an audience member, you never want to end. The Hills Musical Company’s version of The Drowsy Chaperone is one of them – it is bright, tight, happy, snappy and very, very, very funny.
Bob Martin and Don McKellar’s clever, witty script is billed as ‘a musical within a comedy’ and is just that – an unnamed man sits in a chair in his apartment and to cheer himself up he invites the audience to share his joy of musicals. As he plays the original cast album of his favourite musical comedy, Gable and Stein’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”, a gloriously campy 1920s romp, the show forms around him and his surroundings. Using a record as a plot device leads to some great comic invention: the man interrupts the action to give us anecdotes about the actors and amusing titbits regarding the show; if the record skips or stops, so does the action (even if it’s mid-song); there is also a delightful bit where the record is the wrong one. All of this allows the Man (Scott Nell) to interact with and around the actors with hilarious results.
Director David Sinclair knows exactly what works with this style of show. He knows just how far to push the comedy envelope with exaggeration and extravagance to go just enough over the top as not to plummet into the depths of stupidity. Sinclair’s cohorts of comedy, choreographer Linda Williams and musical director Mark DeLaine, know the boundaries just as well and stick to them with equal success. Williams seems to have a knack of never repeating a dance step, being inventive all the time, while DeLaine shows yet again why he is one of Adelaide’s most sought after musical directors obtaining pitch perfection from performers and band alike. There is not one number in this production that doesn’t work musically, dance and action wise.
Craig Williams’ clever set design allows for versatility seldom seem in amateur productions – any man who can get a bi-plane onto the small Stirling stage is nothing short of a genius.
The lead actors are a group to die for: Brady Lloyd (Robert, the Groom) and Lindsay Prodea (George, the Best Man) tapping up a storm with the number ‘Cold Feets’ (with extremely ‘hot’ feets); Greg Beer (Underling) and Wendy Rayner (Mrs Tottendale) making a charming comedic couple; Lindsay Dunn as Broadway producer Feldzig once more delivering straight-faced, perfectly timed one-liners with élan; Shelley Crooks being dizzingly ditzy as wannabe star Kitty; Angus Smith and Beau-Daniel Loumeau as the very ‘punny’ obligatory musical comedy gangsters disguised as pastry chefs (what else!); Fiona DeLaine being beautifully demure, when not cart-wheeling around the stage in what must be the most energetic song (‘Show Off’) a leading lady has ever been asked to perform; Bronwen James ‘soaking’ stylishly as the title role; and Megan Humphries singing with her usual style and panache as perhaps the only human plot device ever written, Trix the Aviatrix (well, it is a musical comedy after all).
Almost stealing the show as stereotypical Latin lover Aldolpho (he won’t let you forget it) is Jamie Richards. His is a portrayal of huge comic proportions and one that he reins in at just the perfect level of silliness.
However, the real show stealer is Nell as Man in Chair – he is just wonderful! Never leaving the stage (except for a ‘toilet break’), he narrates, interrupts and interacts hilariously with the plot line and action, all with the greatest, cheesiest grin ever. An audience member would have to have a heart of stone not to find Nell charming and likable. The man can make you laugh with just a look! This is a true stellar, standout performance.
All of this fine talent is backed up by an extremely strong ensemble.
Over the past few years, the Hills Musical Company has presented some great productions, but The Drowsy Chaperone could quite possibly be their BEST ever. Go see it!!! (again and again and again).