By Jennifer Mustoe and Chelsea Benjamin
The SCERA’s The Drowsy Chaperone is one of those shows you don’t want to miss. I wanted to get that out right away, so if you only have time to read a few sentences, you know the deal.
I’d never seen the show, but Chelsea had and was eager to see what I thought. I’d read a little about it, but really was unprepared for how awesome it was. Okay, I’ll explain more.
It’s the story of Man in Chair, played winningly, perfectly by Brett Merritt, who shares his love for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone by playing its record. (And some funny bits in the show when the record skips and the dancers stop, stop, stop and another when the second act starts playing and it’s the wrong record and a completely different show’s song is acted out. Clever and hilarious.) About Man in Chair. He is awkward, funny, sweet and you feel a little sorry for him. Though the show is a comedy, Man in Chair brings us down to earth with his rather poignant story of his divorce–though when he told it was funny and I felt a little guilty about laughing but then you know it’s supposed to be funny so you laugh and then sort of sigh and think, gosh, what a sad man. Merritt had perfect timing and his eating the breakfast bar was classic. He can make chewing look funny.
The Drowsy Chaperone that he is telling us about is a screwball comedy set in the 1920s. Janet DeGraaff, played by Erin Lee Brown, wants to marry Robert Martin, played by Michael Shepherd. Janet is a famous theater star and her producer Feldzieg, played by Kyle Baugh, is angry that she is leaving. Feldzieg is being threatened by two hilarious gangsters posing as chefs, played by Jared Arnell and Nate Brogan. All three of these actors were in sync and I loved their scenes.
Erin Lee Brown was wonderful as the slightly diva-esque Janet, who claims she wants to leave the stage and then does a huge, glitzy number “Show Off.” Ms. Shaw’s voice is clear, her movement and dancing smooth and graceful and she embodied the diva fantastically. Her love interest Robert Martin had his own charm and self-appreciation, especially in “Cold Feets” where Shepherd mugs and preens delightfully with his best man George, played with style by Nathaniel Brown.
Here’s what was awesome about the show. First, the acting. Each actor did a fine job and was very believable. I think the SCERA consistently pulls in fine talent and this show proves it. The dancing, choreographed by director David Smith, was spot on. Nothing too fancy but all very tight. I love shows where the director is also the choreographer because there is such a connection with all the movement onstage. Bravo to Smith, who is also a brilliant actor in his own right. I know this because I’ve seen him perform and he is amazing. The costumes were wonderful, very 20s and simple for the Ensemble (who were all GREAT–wonderful dancers, actors, and the perfect rounding out of the cast) and fancier for the stars. The set, by M’Liss Tolman, was spectacular.
As I said, the Ensemble was great and so were the co-stars of the show. Dane Allred as Underling (aka the butler) had some funny bits, which were executed with great timing. And though the show is called The Drowsy Chaperone, Delayne Dalton’s Chaperone wasn’t in as many scenes as I had expected. Dalton had great timing and I especially liked her physical comedy acting. I admit, I wanted her drunker, as that’s what “drowsy” really means. I had expected her to stumble and sway a bit more. McKell Shaw as Kitty was also a scream–with her typical ditzy blonde character complete with squeaky voice. Ellie Gallagher as the loopy Mrs. Tottendale was cute and funny and there is a surprise with her at the end. But I’m no spoiler teller so go see the show to see what it is. One of the best performances of the night was by Wes Tolman as Adolpho. Whoa. That guy is hilarious. One more mention: Rebecca Roberts’ Trix has some serious pipes. What a gorgeous voice.
Since I’ve never seen the show, I didn’t know if the big, huge spaces where there is silence and breaks in the show, especially during songs that had the audience laughing out loud are scripted or not. But what Smith does with this is really what makes the show over the top. And the cast responds and plays these all so well. It’s hard to explain these so again, just go see the show and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
This show is completely appropriate for all ages. There’s enough going on for kids to stay entertained, nothing too out there for parents to fret about when they take their kids, and enough laughs for everyone.
SCERA Center for the Arts
745 S. State St, Orem
Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat 7:30 PM
April 18-May 10
$12 Adults, $10 Children, Students and Seniors