THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Book by Bob Martin and Dan McKellar
Granbury Theatre Company
Director –Phil Groeschel
Musical Director—Duncan McMahan
Choreography – Angela Burkey
Set Designer –Kerri Pavelick
Lighting Designer –Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer – Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer – Emily Warwick
Man in Chair – Xan Cramer
Mrs. Tottendale– Gale Gilbert
Robert Martin – Dakota Brown
George– Jared Ball
Kitty– Kennedy Brooke Styron
Gangster #1– Dakota Lane Medlin
Gangster #2– Aaron Brooks
Aldolpho—Brian Box Lawson
Janet Van De Graaff– Kiersten Mathis
The Drowsy Chaperone – Shannah Rae
Trix, the Aviatrix–-Caitlan Leblo
Reporter One—Deanna Rupp
Reporter Two – Tiffany Trimble
Superintendent– David Broberg
Ensemble: Amanda Brooks, Reagan Hall, Christian Loper, Emily Warwick, Mercy Whites, Zach Zagrocki
Photo Credit: Shad Ramsey
Reviewed Performance: 7/25/2015
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
As someone who has never seen the Historic 1886 Granbury Opera House, my visit to Granbury, Texas on Saturday afternoon was a real treat. Not only did I have the pleasure of taking a short road trip from Waxahachie to Granbury, but also, I was able to see a production in a theater that originally featured Vaudeville Acts, Dramatic Productions, and Musical Programs. According to the Texas Historical Commission plaque, “after years of rapid deterioration,” the building originally named Kerr’s Opera House, was re-opened in 1975 by the Granbury Opera Association. It was impressive to see the interior the theater, kept with the integrity and design that was very representative of the original state. Now that the history of the theater building has been uncovered…let’s get on with the show-and to my review of Granbury Theatre Company’s The Drowsy Chaperone.
The Drowsy Chaperone is a parody of American musical comedies of the 1920’s. The large ensemble cast includes a wealth of talent of all ages. The musical is a complete two hours, however, the high energy and impressive choreography allow the audience to pay no attention to the time. Audiences are quickly drawn into the story told by the Man in the Chair-the story of the fictional musical “The Drowsy Chaperone.” As the Man in the Chair begins to narrate the story of “The Drowsy Chaperone”, he places the needle onto the record, and the story and characters burst into life in his living room, right before the audience’s eyes. There is every stock character that one would expect to see in a musical from the 1920’s: the less-than-feminine aviatrix, the star of stage, the somewhat sleazy European lover, and the blonde, dim-witted floozy. Put them all together, and you have the perfect formula for the show billed as a “musical within a comedy”-pun intended.
Director Phil Groeschel brought together an ensemble cast which worked very well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and sound that enhanced the story being told by these characters. Each actor in the ensemble added a touch of authenticity to their roles. Whether playing a lead or someone in the ensemble, every single performer brought something special to the stage, which added to the overall experience of the production. Mr. Groeschel directed this musical like a well-oiled machine. Drowsy Chaperone is like a glass of champagne of a light, musical comedy providing an excellent theatrical experience, and an overall enjoyable afternoon at the theatre.
Set Designer Kerri Pavelick successfully transformed the vintage style proscenium stage into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and conveyed with precision for detail. I was impressed with Pavelick’s attention to detail in each location and especially the usage of the bright colors in the set of “The Drowsy Chaperone” was a nice touch. By comparison, it made the Man in the Chair’s dingy, depressing apartment quite the opposite. I enjoyed seeing the usage of the Granbury Opera House’s vintage style drapery used as an appropriate touch in this production. There were seamless transitions, which kept the energy and momentum moving. It was also nice to see very different looks of each location in the story. There was never one location that I felt was similar to another. This attention to detail was one of those things that would not have been missed had it not been there but added an element of legitimacy to the set.
Lighting was designed by Kalani Morrissette. Morrissette did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate and never cast distracting shadows. Through the performance, his cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design-from location to location, and also captured the mood and theme of each scene and song. One special touch was when the audience was given the impression of when the record was stopped by the Man in the Chair (each actor was positioned in a blue tableau-giving the allusion of a pause in the action and music). Not only did it provide a nice visual representation of what was happening on stage, but also, it was executed in a very unique way.
Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. I enjoyed seeing the women of the cast in extraordinary 1920’s fashions- the colors, the feathers, and the sequins. Each ensemble player wore a unique costume adding to his or her importance to the story. All this added authenticity to their roles. Costumes were visually appealing, while also giving an accurate depiction of their character’s personalities in “The Drowsy Chaperone” on stage in 1928.
Kiersten Mathis was incredibly believable in the role of Janet Van De Graaff. Through facial expression, and body language, Mathis convincingly portrayed the Broadway star that plans to give up her career for married life. Her role was very loveable, and her enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant, having appropriate interaction with her fellow ensemble members, and created lovely on stage relationships with the Drowsy Chaperone, Robert (her fiancé), and Feldzieg, her producer. It should be noted that this impressive performer is quite young- she is a junior in high school. I was shocked to read this in program. Miss Mathis carried herself with great maturity, and with complexity. Her vocal range was also quite impressive- her performance of “Show Off” rivaled that of any current Broadway performer. Mathis never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. She certainly has the potential to continue her theatrical endeavors as she comes of age.
Adolpho was played by Brian Box Lawson. Lawson was very convincing through facial expressions and stage movements. In one specific scene, Lawson and The Drowsy Chaperone (played wonderfully by Shannah Rae) provided the perfect dose of humor to this musical comedy. The best example of this was their performance of “I Am Adolpho.” Lawson’s line delivery and humorous accent truly added to funniest moments of the production. Lawson took charge of the stage, and was a standout in this production.
Xan Cramer in the role of Man in Chair was skillful in portraying the agoraphobic Broadway fanatic, seeking to cure his “non-specific sadness.” Of course the cure to any “non-specific sadness” is the put on the complete score to a Broadway musical! (Theatre fanatics and Broadway fans are certain to chuckle here!) Through facial expressions, and humorous line delivery, Cramer’s performance was appropriate to the role. Mr. Cramer did an incredible job of providing a running commentary of “The Drowsy Chaperone” and was a strong and humorous presence on stage throughout the majority production.
This production of The Drowsy Chaperone is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the Man in Chair begins his amusing conversation with the audience (referencing theatrical conventions-such as the obnoxious technique of “breaking the fourth wall” and “sitting in the darkened theatre-waiting for something to begin,” you will be charmed and entertained. The audience should note that the performance runs straight through, from beginning to end, without an intermission. Something that I felt was a little missed-especially in a musical production. If you are looking for a good old-fashioned musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone is the one to see. You will not be disappointed. To take a phrase from the 1920’s, The Drowsy Chaperone is “the bees’ knees!”
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
Granbury Theatre Company
Plays through August 16.
Granbury Opera House, 133 East Pearl Street, Granbury, Texas 76048. Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm. Saturday matinee at 3:30pm. Sunday matinee at 2:00pm.
Ticket prices are as follows:
Seniors (65 & older): $22.00
Children (12 & under): $20.00
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates and reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call the box office at 817-579-0952.