THE DROWSY CHAPERONE worth the attention

by Walter Bender

Barley Sheaf Players selected THE DROWSY CHAPERONE as their summer Teen Production�the cast, crew, and some of the support staff are students from the surrounding area. Director Ron Quirk has assembled quite a talented group of young performers, and the production gives them a chance to show their talents well.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE actually started out as a spoof of old musicals for a pre-nuptial party for Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. The original production did not have the Man in Chair, which has become arguably the most popular character in the show. Several re-writes, false starts and trials later, it opened on Broadway and captured the Tony for Best Musical in 2006.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE has quite a laundry list of stock characters -the young Broadway star, the handsome heir/fiance, the beleaguered producer, gangsters masquerading as pastry chefs, a dowager, her servant, and of course the title character who is portrayed in this musical-within-a-musical as the Grand Dame of the stage whose specialty is belting out “rousing anthems.” The large cast of Barley Sheaf’s production are all very talented singers/dancers.

Leading off the show is the narrator, Man in Chair, played by Billy Townsend, who shows a familiarity with the character that is wonderful. He captured the timing of the lines perfectly and a joy for this “hidden treasure” of the musical. Radler Kelly and Patricia Beam played the young couple getting married, and were the prototypical musical ingenues. Nora Holler was the title character, and belted out her “signature” anthem with all the enthusiasm of a grizzled veteran of the stage. Liam Snead plays Adolpho, the Latin lover/scoundrel who is supposed to seduce the young lover, but makes a mistake. Lisa Clark, Joey Bertoni, Joel Iscaro, Eamon Goebel, Holly Grum, Jamie and Tracey Harrison, Haley Akers and Mac Snead round out the principle cast. They were well supported by a large ensemble and a very talented 4-piece orchestra.

There were some liberties taken with this production. The ensemble (while very talented) was a bit large for the stage, and the production numbers were a bit clunky as a result. The show was expanded to 2 acts (the original production is one act) which loses some of the humor of Man in Chair explaining that IF there were an intermission, it would have been at the end of the big first-half production number. And, as is the case with many teen shows, a couple male characters were changed to females. None of this truly detracts from the enjoyment of the show, but purists beware.

One last thing to be aware of�this show has some double entendres and some suggestive lines, which was a bit off-setting at times coming from a young adult performer. On the other hand, some of the lines that I found not very funny in the Broadway production seemed to be funnier coming from a young adult.

For fans of younger actors, and a glimpse of some very talented people that we may see on stage, screen, or TV in the future, make a trip out to Lionville to see THE DROWSY CHAPERONE.

Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Directed by Ron Quirk
July 16 – 25, 2010
Barley Sheaf Players
810 N Whitford Rd
Lionville, PA

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