Orange County Theatre Reviews

(photo credit: vanguard uni)

Written by Daniella Litvak

It was a dark and stormy night, but I ventured forth to the Lyceum Theater to see The Drowsy Chaperone. I’m glad I made the journey. Cold, rainy, and windy as it was outside, everything was red hot on stage.

It starts with Man In Chair (Adam Milana Castrillón). He’s a fourth-wall-breaking theater fan and, in his words, is feeling blue. To cheer himself up, he plays the cast recording of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone.   As the Man In Chair listens to the record and provides commentary, he brings this screwball, Jazz Age comedy about the wedding day of oil tycoon Robert Martin (Logan Rice) and Broadway star Janet Van de Graaff (Rezia Landers) and the misadventures they and their attendees get into to life.

The Man In Chair’s running commentary skewering The Drowsy Chaperone’s (intentionally built-in) flaws is necessary because a throwback show as it played straight today wouldn’t fly. By acknowledging the stock characters, the contrived plot, and the lowbrow humor intended as filler upfront, the show gives the audience license to sit back and unapologetically enjoy the spectacle in front of us.

There is a lot to love about The Drowsy Chaperone.   Two gangsters (Elijah Munck as Gangster #1 and Luke Desmond as Gangster #2) are disguised as pastry chefs and possess a never-ending supply of baked good puns. The non-pastry wordplay is fun too. There’s tap dancing. It has been a while since I’ve seen a musical with tap dancing. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I saw Rice and Cam Burchard, who plays George, tap dance their way through “Cold Feets.”

The musical numbers are engaging and energetic from both musical and performance standpoints. The emotion behind them is real even when they’re lyrically ridiculous – “Bride’s Lament” and “Love is Always Lovely in the End,” for instance. “Toledo Surprise” is delicious from beginning to end.

The cast is the bee’s knees. They’re all triple threats: they sing well, they act well, and they dance well. The physical stunts they pull off are impressive. Landers cartwheels and does the splits in heels. In addition to tap dancing, Rice rollerskates – blindfolded. I got more thrills from Rice’s skating than from the CGI slugfests of today’s blockbusters.

Brenner Farr plays Underling.  He is a butler, so he’s British, has a stiff upper lip, and is snarky. Farr’s line delivery is impeccable. He’s so poised, even under the silliest of circumstances. He’s paired up with ditzy socialite Mrs. Tottendale (Arabella Chrastina), and they make a fine comic duo.

Gangster #1 and Gangster #2 are gangsters in the mold of the gangsters from Kiss Me Kate and Bullets Over Broadway. Munck and Desmond are hilarious in the roles. They do a good job maintaining an undertone of menace about them. As silly as the characters can be – especially when carrying oversized pastry bags or dressed in 1920s bathing suits – you never forget they are in the business of “chopping nuts” and “pounding dough.” Have I mentioned the double entendres?

Costuming is crucial, with most of the action-taking place amongst the upper crust of the Jazz Age. The Drowsy Chaperone delivers on that front. Everyone looked stylish. The Jazz Age was one of the best eras for fashion. There’s a lot of glitz and glamour to look at. It takes the fun and spectacle to the next level.

The themes of The Drowsy Chaperone include the joy and comfort a musical brings to people. It’s exactly the show you want to see when seeking shelter from the storm.

Feb 24 – Mar 12, 2023.

Review
8.8 Overall
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Story8.5
Acting9
Set & Design8.5
Costumes9
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Great Show! OCR Recommended!

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