Forge’s First Avenue Finale: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Charms and Delights

by Connie Giordano

Tap dancing, a beautiful ingénue, an alcoholic chaperone, an aviatrix, an over-the-top Casanova, and singing gangsters.  What more could one ask for in musical theatre?  It’s rare that I attend a show these days where the audience is belly-aching with laughter and the kids are wide awake, laughing and paying attention.  Forge Theatre’s final production on First Avenue is a gem, from start to finish.  A 2006 Tony award winner for best book and score, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is a 1920’s parody of traditional musicals, sure to tickle your fancy.

Forge vet Bob Goretski plays the neurotic yet lovable Man in Chair, who narrates through one of his most beloved musicals, complete with a bright red self-titled vinyl for us old-timers to reminisce along with him.  A familiar plot of boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy …well, you can figure out the rest.  However this girl happens to be Broadway diva star Janet Van de Graaf, adeptly played by Janine Herd.  Herd’s rendition of “Show Off” is the first in a series of show-stoppers.  Though the story is cute, it’s the show within the show that makes it such a hit.  The stellar cast that Director Marnie Herzfeld and Musical Director Denise Wisneski expertly guided through weeks of rehearsals did not disappoint.

Goretski’s portrayal of the fanatical narrator makes you picture his closet of Barbara Streisand wigs, you can almost hear his rendition of Cabaret from his shower, that’s how perfectly believable and committed he was to his Man in Chair.  He revels through the show that never was, the “comedy within a musical,” and we the audience, become theatre geeks willingly.  Anyone who’s ever attended one musical in their lives can appreciate this charming, clever and campy romp.

Along with the wonderful Goretski, there are so many talents in this show it’s difficult to name them all.  Steve Schulz clearly stood out as lady-killer Adolpho.  Schultz kept everyone howling, his brilliant comic timing along with the hilarious and talented Regina DePaolis stole every scene they were in.  DePaoli’s Chaperone was sentimentally bawdy, her rendition of “As We Stumble Along” another show-stopper.  Danielle Greenberg as the classic dumb blonde Kitty was adorable, Renee Schultz’s Trix the Aviatrix let out an impressive belt in “I Do, I Do in the Sky,” and stand-out Jason Fazio is sure to hit Broadway any day now.  Fazio along with Carey Rumpf as leading man Robert Martin excited us with their tap duet “Cold Feets.”  Additional players JT Grosch, Beth Eustis and Jack Roberts also deserve credit for creating a top-notch show.  It’s no wonder the show is nearly entirely sold out, a stellar cast and ensemble, kudos to Herzfeld and Wisneski and their team for a delightful night of music and comedy.

Forge’s black box space makes staging any musical a director’s challenge, with the orchestra too close to the playing area.  But these difficulties will hopefully be overcome in their new digs.  Be sure to check out Forge Theatre’s next show, THE 39 STEPS, in their new home in Port Providence.

Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Directed by Marnie Herzfeld
June 7 – 29, 2013
Forge Theatre
241 First Avenue
Phoenixville, PA 19460

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