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10May

The Drowsy Chaperone, Wakefield High School, Arlington, Virginia, May 5, 2018

Kristen Waagner

McLean High School

 

We all have that one musical that we never get tired of listening to. For some, it's "Carousel." For others, it's "Wicked." For the Man in Chair, it's "The Drowsy Chaperone," a 1928 musical about a wedding in the Prohibition Era. He laughs, he cries, and he sings along to the songs of his favorite Broadway stars in Wakefield High School's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," reminding us of the pure joy that theatre can bring out in everyone.

 

Originally written by a group of friends (including Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, and Greg Morrison) for a stag party, "The Drowsy Chaperone" is a love letter to the musical comedies of the 1920s. With music in the style of the Gershwin and Cole Porter, the madcap hijinks of the characters are narrated by an enthusiastic and reclusive theatre fan known as the Man in Chair. He invites the audience to accompany him in listening to his beloved vinyl record of the fictional 1928 hit, "The Drowsy Chaperone," which centers around the wedding of rich kid Robert Martin and leading lady Janet Van De Graaff. Mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay (happy!) wedding ensue, with the Man in Chair commentating on it all and speaking for everyone's inner theatre lover.

 

Ethan Chow, as the Man in Chair, served to connect the audience with the 'show within a show,' interjecting in each scene with his own hilarious commentary. With every word to every song memorized, Chow showed remarkable commitment to his character, expanding upon the stereotype of the die-hard theatre fan. His performance was the thread that tied each character together, and he sang with earnest passion in the heartwarming finale, "As We Stumble Along (Reprise)."

 

The talented ensemble cast of "The Drowsy Chaperone" emphasized the whimsical nature of their characters, vying for the spotlight in each number. Especially notable were the leading couple--Janet (Samantha Rios) and Robert (Garrett Rinker), who were both strong singers and handled difficult choreography (including tap for Rinker) well. The youthful Rios shone vocally in her big number "Bride's Lament," accompanied by a chorus of dancing monkeys. Xavier Molina as Aldolpho was a crowd favorite, with perfectly over-the-top choices that, when paired with his rich tenor voice, made his song, "I Am Aldolpho," particularly hilarious.

 

Though there were some sound issues during the production, the actors, particularly Molina and the energetic Trix (Retta Laumann), handled them without a hitch. The "Not-So-Drowsy" Pit Orchestra was well-balanced, encapsulating the mood of a vinyl record being played on repeat particularly well. Detailed and versatile, the set easily transitioned from an average apartment to the setting of fantastical dream sequences and production numbers.

 

A tribute to the tropes of the classic Broadway musical, Wakefield's "The Drowsy Chaperone," celebrates love, comedy, and theatre in the best way possible.


Katie Bushman

Stone Bridge High School

 

There's nothing like the feeling of curling up in a cozy chair and listening to your favorite record. With The Drowsy Chaperone, Wakefield High School invites us to share this experience as their talented cast presents a hilarious and dazzling production that was anything but drowsy.

 

Debuting in 1998, The Drowsy Chaperone is a spoof of golden-age musical comedies. The play-within-a-play format centers on a lonely, middle-aged man listening to a record of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens to the soundtrack, adding hilarious commentary and wry facts about the actors, the show comes to life in his apartment living room. The musical itself is a satirized comedy telling the story of Janet Van De Graaff, a glamorous showgirl giving up a life on stage to marry Robert Martin. Predictably, hijinks ensue, including gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, blindfolded roller-skaters, and an aviatrix for a minister.

 

The standout performance of the show was Ethan Chow as the Man in Chair. His endearingly awkward, incredibly enthusiastic persona was a perfect middleman between the audience and the farce occurring onstage as he provided quips throughout the show. He was constantly engaged – in each musical number he could be found dancing in his chair and mouthing the lyrics. Though his clever and irreverent jokes had the audience roaring in their seats, he added depth to his character through more serious but just as well-delivered monologues in the second act.

 

Each character in the show-within-a-show also delivered an incredibly strong performance. As Janet, Samantha Rios wowed with powerful vocals starring in numbers such as "Show Off" and "Bride's Lament." Her fiancé, Robert (Garrett Rinker), also shone with a toothpaste-model demeanor and impeccable tap dancing skills. A bright spark of humor and talent was Xavier Molina as the self-proclaimed "King of Romance," the eccentric Spaniard Aldolpho. Rounding out the cast were Xitlalli Dawson as the perfectly ditzy and energetic wannabe showgirl Kitty and the small but unforgettable role of Retta Laumann as Trix the aviatrix.

 

The set, designed by Conrad Burns and crew, cleverly balanced the Man in Chair's bachelor pad with the wedding guest house, including clever details such as a refrigerator doubling as a front door. The pit orchestra shone in bold, jazzy numbers as they navigated the score with ease. Although there were some issues with mics, the cast boldly soldiered through.

 

The incredible talent of each cast member made The Drowsy Chaperone at Wakefield High School a roaring success.

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