THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is Why We Love Musicals

by Jack Shaw

Large scale musicals generally make me groan. You have play the stage just right, move people around without bumping into each other, and still have room to dance and otherwise perform. I couldn’t have groaned if I wanted to I was so busy laughing.

If you missed THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at Haddonfield Plays and Players tonight, you missed the magic of musical theatre. I could start laughing at any moment just thinking of any single moment in the show. This comedy musical (and yes I said it that way on purpose) has no comparison to any large musical in my recent viewing history. I thoroughly enjoyed my musical theatre experience of 1928 mixed with today’s commentary by The Man in the Chair.

This rip-roaring 1920s-style musical is filled with the Vaudevillian comic bits that have become classics. You know the ones so well that you can finish the bit yourself. Still, we laughed until there were tears, and were wowed again with another dance number. It was magical then in that age; it is magical now.

The cast from the Haddonfield Plays and Players sleeper hit, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

The storyline in musicals then was simply to set up elaborate song and dance numbers. In a typical story, a situation arises that seems like a crisis to characters on stage and, of course, it is resolved in the end. Forget that the plots didn’t make sense. They weren’t meant to have any resemblance to reality anyway. The story was a gap filler as were the comedy bits between the larger acts. Still, we loved the fantasy place it took us with the bigger-than-life actors, acting badly or badly acting. Usually both, but that was the way it was. Now we have TV, and sometimes that’s not nearly as entertaining. Well, maybe reality TV. Kidding.

The direction was super and considering the director, Craig Hutchings, played a fantastic character role as well–that’s just amazing. I’m sure Craig won’t mind if I say everyone gave a performance of a lifetime. The acting, singing, dancing and the music that came from the wings was all excellent. The performance was a true demonstration of what musical theatre can do.

Michael Hicks was totally believable as The Man in the Chair who wants to get rid of the blues by playing his favorite musical soundtrack from 1928–a show called THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. As he shares it with us with such lovely zeal, the stage suddenly comes alive with the players acting, singing, and dancing the numbers in his living room–right down to the record skips and stops. In between the grand numbers, there are the comedy bits–ridiculous and predictable–yet hilarious nonetheless.

The play isn’t about The Man in the Chair, not really, but about us and our affection, better make that adoration, for the musicals we fashioned in the past. The music and choreography was terrific here as well as every individual number. I won’t talk about standouts here because everyone was great. As near a perfect cast as a director could find, but you know it wasn’t so; it just seemed that way. There were of course talented major players, to be sure, but when a show goes so well you don’t want to set anyone a part.

I like it when I am so pleasantly surprised–when my preconceived notions (like big musicals) are shattered and I am moved to laugh. Did I mention there was a rare well-earned standing ovation? Bravo! If you saw my Acting Smarts post urging you to see this show and you don’t, you’ll wish you had!

I hope this gets posted in time for you to see it and take yourself out to the theater for a real treat.

That’s my told you so.

by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Directed by Craig Hutchings
March 31 – April 16, 2011
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 East Atlantic Avenue
Haddonfield, NJ

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