Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Case High Theatre Company’s closing show of their season is “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The show first opened on Broadway on May 1, 2006 and starred Georgia Engel as Mrs. Tottendale and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score. The hilarious show within a show begins when a diehard musical fan decides to play his favorite cast album, a 1928 smash hit called “The Drowsy Chaperone” and the show magically bursts to life right in his very own apartment. The plot centers on Janet Van De Graff, a showgirl who plans to give up her career to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin. However Janet is the star of Feldzieg’s Follies and her producer is being threatened by two gangsters employed by his chief investor. Disguised as pastry chefs, these two pun-happy thugs want Feldzieg to stop the wedding. He employs Adolpho, a bumbling Latin Lothario, to seduce Janet and spoil her relationship with Robert. This being the 1920’s, Janet is accompanied by a chaperone who is always drowsy which is another word for tipsy. A massive misunderstanding takes place after Janet disguises herself as a French woman. The ensuing plot incorporates mistaken identities, dream sequences, spit takes, deus ex machina, an unflappable English butler, an absent minded dowager, a ditsy chorine, a harried best man and of course Janet’s drowsy chaperone. The chaperone is played by a Grande Dame of the theatre who sings rousing anthems and not above upstaging her costars. Director Neil Jeronimo picks the best performers for this madcap romp and obtains topnotch performances from one and all of them to entertain the audience with laughter all night long. His addition of a large chorus adds to the enjoyment of this high energy musical. The talented performers win a standing ovation at the close of the night.
Neil is aided in his task by musical director Kasey Jeronimo who taught the beautiful 1920’s music to this talented cast. Jameson Ward not only conducts the 14 piece orchestra but also plays keyboards. Choreography by Tricia Rodrigues includes the Charleston, tap, tango, and Busby Berkley dances to name a few. The Man in the Chair is played by freshman student, Nathaniel James LeBoeuf. He keeps the plot moving along during his narration and weaves in and out of scenes excellently. He commands the stage in this role, making numerous comic references along the way. Nathaniel joins in on Monkey on a pedestal while imitating Janet’s movements as well as in “As We Stumble Along, the finale of the show where he’s given goggles from Trix and climbs into the airplane in triumph. He delivers his enormous amount of dialogue splendidly and has a very bright future in theatre ahead of him.<P>
Julia Morin is marvelous as Janet with her singing and dancing as well as her comic timing. She is a gorgeous girl who looks like a young version of Madeline Kahn. Julia enchants the audience with her numerous songs. “Show Off” starts as a torch song and builds into a belting number with high kicks and acrobatics. It’s reminiscent of a number from “Gypsy.” Her other number is “Bride’s Lament” where she sings about putting her boyfriend as a monkey on a pedestal. Brendan Costa is tall and handsome as her suitor, Robert. He is fantastic especially in “Accident Waiting to Happen” where he dances on roller skates while blindfolded. It has to be seen to be believed. Brendan also does an excellent song and tap dance routine called “Cold Feets” with Devin Proulx as the best man, George. Both Brendan and Devin learned this intricate tap dance routine in four sessions, having never tapped before. Devin also uses his strong voice in the Wedding songs and has many comic bits in the show.
Makenna Beaudoin is hilarious as the Drowsy Chaperone. Neil gives her some clever shtick to do while she guzzles from her drink. Makenna uses her lovely voice in “As We Stumble Along” which to refers to her drinking. She steals many a scene in this over the top role. She also sings in “I Am Aldopho” where she seduces the Latin lover and in “A Message from a Nightingale” with Kitty, the gangsters and Aldolpho where they are disguised in Asian attire. This latter number opens Act 2 and sounds like “Western People Funny” from “The King & I.” The Man in the Chair mistakenly plays it and the song has funny rhymes like Asian and Caucasian. Aldolpho is played by Brayden Fanti with his dark swarthy looks and smarmy charm wins over the audience. Some of his clever antics include wooing the chaperone and saying his name in a very mysterious comic voice. He is a hoot in this role.
Derek Alexander is very comical as Feldzieg, the producer. He displays his voice in “Toledo Surprise” where he and the cast do a rousing Charleston. His dumb blonde girlfriend, Kitty wants to replace Janet in the show is played by Sydney Rutkowski who is wonderful. She has a dumb blonde voice and is very comical as this dim bulb. Sydney displays her dancing skills in “Toledo Surprise.” The two punny and funny gangsters are well played by Samuel Rodriguez Jr. and Luke Sylvester . They have numerous puns about cooking as they are disguised as pastry chefs. They are reminiscent of the two gangsters from “Kiss Me Kate.” They show off their voices in “Toledo Surprise” and “Message from a Nightingale.” Their scene stealing antics are priceless. Playing the eccentric dowager, Mrs. Tottendale is Grace Boland whose antics have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. She is extremely ditsy and her funniest bit is her spit takes with her butler. When she asks for ice water, he gives her vodka which she spits into his chest, winning her many laughs. Her faithful butler, Underling is excellently played by Eddie Plante whose dead pan delivery wins many laughs. Their duet “Love is Always Lovely in the End” is wonderfully performed. Casey Frazier plays Trix, a mysterious woman who solves the problems facing the cast in the finale. She belts out the rousing “I Do, I Do in the Sky” with an airplane onstage. So for a fun filled evening of entertainment and merriment, be sure to catch “The Drowsy Chaperone” performed by Case High Theatre Company. They do a very professional job with their productions, having won the 2017 Drama Festival. Tell them Tony sent you and tell them this is Tony’s 1600th review.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (12 to 14 May)
Case High Theatre Company, Joseph Case High School, 70 School St, Swansea, MA
1(508)675-7483 or email@example.com