The Tony Award winning musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” staged by the May River Theatre Company at the Ulmer Theater in Bluffton, is a ridiculously funny musical comedy that will entertain and cheer you and keep you laughing.
The production is impressively directed by Travis Hornsby, with musical direction by Evelyn McNair and choreography by Dawn Rosa Miller. It is filled with talented, skilled and dedicated cast members. This “comedy within a musical” is perfectly timed to offer a light touch just when we all seemed to need it .
The book, by Bob Martin and Don McKellar — with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison — is a kind of take off on a 1920s song and dance gambol, which references a totally made-up, never-happened musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
A huge part of the success of “The Drowsy Chaperone” rests with The Man in Chair, a narrator (Michael Weaver) who provides a kind of structure around which the cast advance the ridiculous, impossible, completely escapist and thoroughly distracting storyline. Weaver is masterful as he delivers his opening monologue, setting the stage and then introducing us to the action. Throughout the performance, he shares his prized vinyl records on his record player.
The plot continues in two acts with eight scenes, each defined by the cast and the musical numbers.
We find that there is going to be a wedding at Mrs. Tottendale’s (Gail Westerfield) gracious home. She is seen to by many, but most importantly by Underling (Alan Wallington), her dedicated, very dry-humored, sarcastic but proper butler.
The wedding is to unite Robert, the smitten and naive bridegroom (Daniel Bittrick) — seen to by his bumbling but well-meaning best man, George, (Stephan Brannon) — and Janet Van de Graff, a show girl (Jean White) in a production something like the Ziegfield Follies. We then meet her overbearing producer Feldzig (Steve Mason), who clearly does not want the wedding to take place, as his star, Janet, will leave his very successful production.
The plot begins to thicken as we realize that Feldzig has enlisted the services of a couple of gangsters (Jonathan Boulon) and (Christian Osborne), who are dressed as pastry chefs. Then there is the empty-headed Kitty, (Catie Anne Mengle) who would love to see Janet leave the show, so that she might become the star of the Feldzig’s famous follies.
You’ll meet the positively scene-stealing Lothario, also up to no good, Aldolpho (Travis Marshall Hornsby), and the totally engaging (read tipsy) alcohol-infused comic gestures of Drowsy (Mimi Molena).
Be on the lookout for Trix (Saundra D. Woods) and the superintendent (Chandler Henry). The ensemble — Lindsey Brannon, Talia Boudjemaa, Matthew Davey and Carrie Frohnapfel and the musical support from the orchestra — clearly add another layer of delight.
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go:
- What: “The Drowsy Chaperone”
- When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through May 7
- Where: Ulmer Auditorium in Bluffton Town Hall. Presented by May River Theatre
- Tickets: www.mayrivertheatre.com or call 843-815-5581 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Fridays