Ok. I’m going to start this review by being completely honest. I really wanted to hate this play. I was offended within the first 15 minutes. But personal feelings aside, I had a job to do. It didn’t take long to get the backstory and plot of this musical because this musical had all the makings of every cheesy, corny, goofball antics you’ve seen in any musical, with jazz hands from here to Kalamazoo, to human beings spitting water in each other’s faces… Eew! The Drowsy Chaperone is one of the clumsiest love stories I’ve ever seen. The Over Due Theatre Company brings to life this delightfully offensive musical, with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
As I made my entrance into the Olivette Community Center, I immediately noticed the staging. With various playbills from classic musicals, hanging from a cardboard cutout of a makeshift kitchen. I was immediately enamored with the man in groom’s attire, who tap danced and sang about having cold feet, on his wedding day. The groom is Robert played by Shane Rudolph, in this production’s take on the quintessential Boy Meets Girl folly. Robert is soon joined by his best man and chaperone, George, played by Bryce Miller. George is more hysterical about the wedding than Robert. So George questions Robert about his reasoning for singing and dancing, at such a time. Robert decides to let him in on his animated behavior by stating it’s a song and a dance that a negro taught me. Pause! A negro? As a black woman in America, I just want to go on record and say I am not your negro (in my James Baldwin voice). I’m not sure if the other two black people who attended this packed house production were offended, but I sure was. But nevertheless, I kept an open mind and soon realized that The Drowsy Chaperone had every intention of offending anyone it possibly could, from gays to women, even the elderly and Asians.
Roberts bride-to-be is Janet, played by Danielle Feinstein. Feinstein’s melodic voice and sensual dance moves make you forget just how ditzy her character Janet is. Janet is a redhead but has plenty of blonde moments throughout the play. One of which caused this the most Mayhem of them all. Janet decides to quit her career as a showgirl to marry a man she just met, which caused her to have reservations about marrying Robert, who happens to be somewhat of a bumbling idiot himself.
The supporting cast helps up the antics to that traditional slapstick level of comedy that we all love about musicals, along with many puns intended. Abraham Shaw plays Adolfo, The Ladies Man, who was also described as a gullible, European, scoundrel. Shaw just happens to be very non-European. He is black. But Shaw’s interpretation of the European Ladies Man was quite comical and genius. I almost forgot he was a black guy with a bad Italian accent or was in Spanish? Either way, Shaw was magnificent! And I cannot forget The Drowsy Chaperone, a cynical middle-aged woman who’s past her prime but won’t face it and has a drinking problem. But really she just needs a good man to make sweet love to her, to reignite her youth. Instead of chaperoning the air head bride-to-be, as her name suggests, she gets drunk instead. And she gets drunk the entire play. I love her. Rachel E. Young nailed her character!
The colorful characters of this ensemble, make you laugh at the Asian Fascination routine, even though you know it’s racist as hell. And Janet’s choice has made me feel better about the one night stand or two, I may or may not have had. At least I didn’t marry him. Overall, the production presented by the overdue Theatre Company was excellent. I really enjoyed the 1920s signature fashion and dance moves. It was amazing to hear a live orchestra instead of pre-recorded music. The set was simple, but still so full of detail. And the talent that graced the stage was phenomenal. Would I recommend The Drowsy Chaperone to a friend? Only if they aren’t easily offended. And only if they love cheesy, corny, goofball musicals like I do.
The Drowsy Chaperone was presented by the Overdue Theatre Company at the Olivette Community Center November 3rd through November 12th. It was directed by Bekah Harbison and choreographed by Mary Fedak.