The Drowsy Chaperone
Venue: Paradise in Augustines – Sanctuary
Gosh this is a jolly good show. Uplifting yet tragic. Bitter-sweet. What a triumph.
The radical multi-instrumentalist and Clash collaborator Tymon Dogg once commented on the nature of the vinyl single: you play it again and again until the scratch is itched. Our ‘drowsy chaperone’ is playing an LP in the same way. For ‘drowsy’ read: slowly getting pissed. We meet him in his apartment, waxing lyrical about a 1928 musical to which he has an original recording. The tragedy for him is that his scratch is never itched… he’s obsessed by the musical. As he shares his passion for the piece, it’s fully staged for us. There’s a conductor, numerous talented musicians in the orchestra pit and a wonderful all dancing, all singing cast. The floor rocks. The narrator stops and starts the action, giving us footnotes and setting the cultural context. He’s not shy of bringing up uncomfortable present day notions of pornography and xenophobia. As the show deepens we hear about his struggle with his sexual orientation, though this is inferred rather than made overt, and his failed marriage. He berates us for making assumptions about him and yet, in a wonderful scene with the apartment’s janitor, he is shy of professing his love for musicals, only to learn that the janitor is himself, a big Broadway fan.
This multi-award winning book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison is a masterclass in how to have your cake and eat it – for not only do we get an essentially tragic story about the struggle to be oneself and live an authentic life, we also get a mad, joyous, very funny mad-cap musical that is beautifully and comically brought to life by an ensemble of wonderful players. It would be against the spirit of the production to single out any one performer as this is a collaborative cast who support each other in an exemplary manner – but I’m sure they’d want me to give a big bravo to the production team who all deserve their own curtain call. Producer Samantha Redfern, Director Chloe Simpson, Musical Director Ross Hadden, Choreographer Anna Phillips, Production Manager Jaime Grant and Assistant Producer Jenna Maclean, have pulled off a foot-tapping showstopper.
Go see – and leave your assumptions about musical theatre at the stage door.
Review: Roy Hutchins for http://internationaltimes.it/