Weathervane staging comedy ‘Drowsy Chaperone’
|Amanda Davis (the Drowsy Chaperone) stars in Weathervane Playhouse’s production of the “The Drowsy Chaperone.”|
|Photo courtesy of Weathervane Playhouse|
Those strange occurrences shape part of the action of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which is on stage at Weathervane Playhouse through July 8.
The script identifies several characters by references other than regular names. For example, the cast list includes Man in Chair, Drowsy Chaperone and Underling (the butler).
As the play opens, Man in Chair (Patrick Michael Dukeman) talks to the audience about his record collection, which features Broadway show albums. He selects “The Drowsy Chaperone” to play for the audience. When he starts playing the album, the cast makes entrances on the stage and performs a spoof of a 1930s musical comedy. However, Man in Chair sometimes interrupts the action to explain the plot to us or to discuss the action of the play. Dukeman is a talented actor, who is making his first appearance in an Akron theater.
The musical comedy deals with the wedding of Janet van De Graaff (Molly Weidig) and Robert Martin (Scott Miesse). The plot revolves around the wedding day and the superstition that the groom should not see the bride before the wedding. So, the groom is given a blindfold and roller skates and sent to the garden. Of course, Janet finds him in the garden, and the plot becomes as complicated as musical comedy can be.
The Drowsy Chaperone (Amanda Davis) is drowsy because she drinks too much. But her job is to keep Janet away from her groom. The Chaperone becomes involved with a man and leaves the bride to get into trouble on her own.
Of course, this is a classic musical comedy, and by the curtain call, everyone is paired with a mate with promises of living happily.
This production has several highlights. The members of the cast sing well and are able to play the screwball timing of the music for laughs. Early in the show, Robert Martin and George (Shane Hurst), his best man, have a long tap-dance number that almost stops the show. Hurst and Miesse are talented singers and dancers. I hope to see them in other productions in the Akron area.
Both Davis and Weidig sing and dance well. Davis has more opportunities for laughs than Weidig, and she seems to enjoy milking her lines for every laugh and giggle she can get from the audience.
Unfortunately, Kitty (Michelle Rae Chaho) is impossible to understand. The performer uses the squeaky voice so common in early movies and stage shows. However, those actresses understood the importance of making sure their lines were intelligible. The director needs to sit in the back row, listen to Kitty and make the appropriate changes.
Director and choreographer Gwen Arment has, for the most part, done an excellent job directing this large cast and making sure every performer has the spirit of 1930s musical comedies.
Musical director John Ebner and a band of four other musicians provide appropriate support for the singers and dancers. The instrumentalists never overpower the singers, and they keep the musical pace brisk and lively.
Costume designer Jasen Smith dressed the cast in costumes typical of the early 20th century.
Scenic designer Alan Scott Ferrall and a group of volunteers constructed a wonderfully outrageous set. However, to describe the set would take some of the fun from seeing the production.
I suspect local theater-goers have a curiosity about this production. When I was at the show June 16, the theater was almost filled to capacity. To be sure you get to see this show, call the ticket office at 330-836-2626. The production runs about 100 minutes without an intermission. This is a fast 100 minutes — filled with screwball, madcap and the cat’s meow.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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