The Drowsy Chaperone
Last night, I was transported into another time as St. Leonard’s Old Collegian Alumni (SLOCA) performed The Drowsy Chaperone in Brighton East.
Fighting my way through the Friday night traffic along St. Kilda Road, I quickly arrived at the venue, parked, and raced up to make the start of the show. At first, I couldn’t find the venue, however I was pointed in the right direction by some excited audience members. I made my way through the doors of the high school gymnasium and found a two hundred plus audience all eager to see tonight’s performance.
They were all seated in the main part of the gymnasium looking on at a black box theatre attached to the side of the building. Acoustically, attaching a black box theatre to the side of a high roof space with a hard surface isn’t the greatest of ideas. However, SLOCA did all that they could to make it work, and the audience was extremely forgiving of this.
From the outset I was struck by how amazing SLOCA’s band were under the leadership of musical director Tim Warner. Of particular note was the brass section - Charlie Pattinson, Hugh Nehrybecki, Damien England, Andre Del Papa, and Simone Higgins - whose music lent that sense of style and sophistication that director Henry Shaw so admired when first seeing the show at the MTC.
Being placed in the gymnasium, the band often drowned out the performers onstage, especially when dialogue was accompanied by music, but the cheerful audience easily forgave this. The sound issues would have no doubt would have been a concern for Shaw and the production team in the lead up to the performance, however there is little they could have done to accommodate it.
Outside of the obvious limitations of the space, I thought the technical crew did a fabulous job in realizing The Drowsy Chaperone. The set was simple yet effective, and was lit extremely well with a nice balance of gels and LED lighting. In fact, I would go so far as saying that the show ran seamlessly from a technical perspective (bar the mike that dropped out on the Man In Chair, but such things can’t be helped).Congratulations are in order for the technical crew of Kyle Smith, Hilary Pilcher, Sophie Dewhurst, May Webster, Emma Buckthorpe, and Ron Gavin.
SLOCA’s cast for The Drowsy Chaperone was an interesting formula, with a mixture St. Leonard’s affiliates from former students to teachers to parents. I believe it worked for the most part, as Elyse McDonald, Robert Martin, and Grace Kingsford lit up the stage around a cast and ensemble that held their own.
I thought that Jan Frazer’s Drowsy Chaperone was terrific in her moments of spoken dialogue, however she did appear to ‘switch off’ when not immediately involved in the action onstage. I hope that finds a way to inhabit that wonderful character of hers when not speaking on stage.
The Gangsters of Andrea Fazio and Fraser Mitchell are both highly promising talents who are definitely worth the price of admittance. Though their performances lacked polish, I believed that both their characters were big, bold and entertaining to watch. The Drowsy Chaperone is a wonderful vehicle for both boys as you can foresee their growth as performers with the run. I would encourage both the boys to focus on their projection and timing, as some of their funny moments were lost with the speed in which they were performed.
I believe that Max Paton and Gilbert Moffat could also focus on improving their projection throughout the run. Both Paton (George) and Moffat (Feldzig) have a wonderful stage presence and were let down in not being able to make themselves heard: Moffat in particular, as the character of Feldzig really grew as the performance went on. I would hope that Moffat finds a way to start the show with the same level of focus and intensity with which he finishes.
Andrew Dempster’s Aldolpho and Greg Diamond’s Man In Chair were another two roles that showed a lot of promise. Both performers drew me into their performance of their respective characters, however both have the potential to grow in their roles throughout the run.
Diamond’s physicality and comic timing was of a high standard, but gave the impression that he was finding his feet as the show’s host.
For Dempster, all I would say is “go bigger.” This highly talented performer had the audience in fits of laughter, but looked to be holding back in certain moments. I highly enjoyed his character of Aldolpho, as did the 200+ audience members around me.
Overall, I found the female cast members to be extremely strong. Not only were Elyse McDonald, Grace Kingsford, and Ellie Sullivan terrific in their respective roles, but they were also giving performers and really brought out the best in those around them.
Lastly, I found James Padley’s Robert Martin simply exceptional. Padley was electric every time he took to the stage and was the highlight of the night. His singing and acting were of a high standard, and I would be keen to see his next production.
If you are up for a night of pure theatrical fun, then you best get yourself along and see SLOCA’s The Drowsy Chaperone. Witnessing young people being given the opportunity to grow and blossom, as they have, into fine performers is an absolute delight.