Geoffrey Rush and Bob Saget have played the Man in the Chair, now it’s Fab Nobs’ Angelo de Cata’s turn. But Karl McNamara is the man in the director’s chair and his obsession with The Drowsy Chaperone has come to life.

Set in a dingy, New York apartment, the Man in the Chair puts on his favourite 1928 musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Right before his eyes, the musical comes to life in his apartment and he provides the audience with his commentary on the story. The story revolves around the wedding of Robert and Janet and is a mish mash of dancing, singing and just a good ol’ time.

Broadway diva? Check.
Foreign, sleazy, Casanova? Check.
Mind-reading ditz? Check.
Funny, witty, know-it-all narrator? Check.
Tap-dancing, magic tricks, rousing anthems? Check, check, CHECK!

This isn’t Karl McNamara’s first time directing a Fab Nobs show. He has also directed Reefer Madness and Spring Awakening. He currently teaches at Glen Waverly Secondary College and is proud to say he directed the first high school version of Avenue Q in Australia.

McNamara approached Fab Nobs about putting on The Drowsy Chaperone after falling in love with the show when he saw it on Broadway, “I also saw Melbourne Theatre Company do it…I kind of was just really obsessed with the show and thought, this doesn’t need to be done on a grand scale at all,” he says. It was then that he realised Fab Nobs’ factory-turned-theatre would be perfect for the show, “I went to Fab Nobs and told them to look at their stage and told them imagine your set as a small, dingy apartment. We won’t have to do much,” he laughs.

The show is demanding. It’s funny, it’s layered, it requires all the actors to play several characters. So what was McNamara looking for when he was casting the show? “I was looking for cast members who could portray a caricature….Which is very interesting when it comes to auditions because when you’re looking for someone for several roles, you’re really asking them to put on several hats…One second they might be the dashing groom with the toothpaste commercial kind of smile, and then seconds later asking them to be a New York gangster,” he says.

This is the first time that musical director Vicki Quinn and McNamara have worked together and he enthusiastically says they hit it off right away. Describing the cast as “experienced”, McNamara talks about them with eagerness and enthusiasm, “We’re lucky to have him in the show”, he says about Angelo de Cata who is playing the Man in the Chair. Not only is de Cata from a musical background, but he has a “straight theatre background” too. “There is a hell of a lot of dialogue and coming from the play world that’s a real bonus for us to have someone like that along,” he says.

He describes Lizzie Matjacic who plays the part of the Drowsy Chaperone as “versatile” and boasts that Amy Larsen “sings with ease” in the role of the bride, Janet Van De Graff, who gets to perform the song “Show Off”. Just as the title suggests, it is in fact a case of her showing off all her party tricks, “She can tap dance and kick her legs up high. We’ve got a lot of magic tricks,” says McNamara about one of his favourite numbers.

It is clear just how passionate McNamara is about the show. It’s all about “the fun, the dancing, the colourful costumes, all the things you’d want in a musical,” he says. The man in the director’s chair fittingly finishes the interview by quoting the Man in the Chair, “Isn’t that what musical theatre supposed to be? Fun?”

Fab Nobs’ The Drowsy Chaperone is on at The Fab Factory
in Bayswater from 9 – 24 November 2012.
Tickets available here or call Anne on 0401 018 846.