By Valerie Hill
Drayton Entertainment has opened its new season at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse with a Canadian musical that’s both funny and poignant.
Yes, you can expect to kick back and enjoy the comedy, the sumptuous costumes, the music and the dancing.
But there is more going on.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” opens with a darkened stage and a voice emanating from what is assumed to be the narrator – known only as “man in the chair” because, well, he’s a man sitting in a chair.
He talks to the audience about how much he dislikes musicals.
It’s an odd start.
But it soon becomes apparent the man is bitter and depressed, having suffered through a nasty divorce. He finds comfort in the music from his favourite Broadway cast recording entitled “The Drowsy Chaperone” and he wants to share the music with the audience.
As the stage lights come up, all the characters from the Broadway show appear. It’s like looking inside someone’s mind and watching their imagination made manifest.
Stratford veteran Mike Nadajewski as the man is superb. He’s funny and unfailingly watchable in his ill-fitting pants and cardigan, though there is also a desperation to him.
The man wants the audience to understand why this album is so meaningful to him.
Though it’s a spoof on 1920s musicals, this production has a lot of entertainment value and that’s largely because of an exceptional cast, with Nadajewski at the top of that list, providing warmth and depth to the story.
That’s not to say the show is without silliness.
Drayton has done an exceptional job with casting comic performers.
The story is about Broadway starlet, Janet Van De Graaff, who is about to get married and give up her stage career. Her producer is determined to quash the wedding and keep his money-making star – played by the always-engaging Jayme Armstrong.
The scene opens as the wedding party comes together and the chaperone, played brilliantly by Gabrielle Jones, is given the task of keeping the bride and groom from seeing each other until the nuptials. She fails miserably because she’s really only interested in drinking Champagne, which makes her drowsy – hence the play’s title.
There are so many richly funny characters in this musical with a highlight being Andrew Scanlon as the self-proclaimed lady’s man, Latin lover Adolpho. He’s just a buffoon in a cape and over-the-top funny.
Nadine Roden as the aviatrix, Trix, doesn’t have a lot of stage time but she has a powerful presence and voice on stage, so pay attention to her.
Gregory Pember and Aaron Walpole as the bumbling gangsters are equally funny.
And funny, too, is Jennifer Thiessen as Kitty, the producer’s girlfriend.
Directed by Max Reimer, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a fast-paced production. And given that the audience is watching the man’s imagination unfolding on stage as he listens to his albums, there are few quirky moments – such as when the record skips and at one point when a record from a different musical is accidentally put on the turntable.
The dancing in the show is another highlight. Particularly watchable are the tap numbers of Tim Porter as George and Kyle Golemba as Robert Martin, the groom. These guys can hoof it with panache.
Though it’s not a musical for children, there is nothing offensive in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
And by the way there is no intermission.
Well, the man in the chair did say he hates the interruption of an intermission.
And what he says, goes.
– Waterloo Region Record
The Drowsy Chaperone
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse
To April 15
Tickets: Adults $46, youth under 20 $27 plus HST,
draytonentertainment.com, call 519-747-7788, or toll-
Jayme Armstrong as Janet and others in The DrowsyChaperone cast at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.