The Drowsy Chaperone: A Show That’s Anything but Drowsy

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I couldn’t resist reporting on shows this school year without going to at least one show from my alma mater, Littleton High School. Last weekend, the Mane Stage at Littleton put on its yearly musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Once the houselights dim, a man in a chair (Ethan Trampler) appears on stage and puts on his favorite record: the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The recording comes to life and the show begins as the man in the chair looks on.

Aaron Nice (left), Raphael Flavier (center), and Turner DeShon (right) perform “Cold Feet”. Photo Credit: Kathy Le

When not-so-bright widow Mrs. Tottenham hosts the wedding of the year with her loyal employee, she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Janet Van de Graaff, glittering starlet of Feldzieg’s Follies, is leaving the stage for her love, Robert Martin. This horrifies the anxious Mr. Feldzieg, whose chief investor has sent two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs to make sure he stops the wedding. The three of them fight the best man, George, who tries everything possible to keep the wedding going. Throw in a vivacious Latin lover, a drowsy chaperone with a bit of a drinking problem, a ditsy flapper, and an aviatrix, and you have a recipe for a wild show.

Grant Bowman (left) and Alex Green (right) put on a flamboyant show in “The Drowsy Chaperone”. Photo Credit: Kathy Le

This unique show-within-a-show features a chirpy jazz-age score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, and a lively, clever book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. The score boasts such tunes as the riveting “Show Off,” the dance number “Cold Feet,” the sizzling and silly “I Am Aldolpho,” the energetic “Toledo Surprise,” and “As We Stumble Along,” a rousing anthem about alcoholism.

The show’s vocal director and producer Jim Farrell loved putting on the show. “The cool thing about it was. . . it was all fresh. . . you just don’t know what’s gonna happen.” The musical debuted in 1998.  While that was 19 years ago, in the theater world, that is considered relatively new. “I’d heard of it before, but never thought about doing it”, Farrell admitted. “That was kinda some of the fun about this, very few people who came to see it knew the show.”  That took the performance to a next level; jokes were unexpected, characters were shocking, and scenes were surprising.

Emma Olsen pours water on Raphael Flavier’s head. Photo Credit: Kathy Le

When asked what his favorite scene from the show was, Farrell couldn’t give a specific answer. “One of the cool things about the show was there’s a lot of stuff that’s really fun. . . I would really have a hard time just picking one, because there’s so many fun pieces. And I think that’s part of the draw of the show, it just kept coming.” And yes, it indeed just kept coming. There was not one lull in the show, it moved from one scene to the next flawlessly. It kept the audience on the edge of their seats, from the incredibly synchronized tap dance numbers, to the fourth-wall-breaking narration from the man in the chair.

Alie Watson (right) sings “As We Stumble Along” to Bella Hathorne (left). Photo Credit: Kathy Le

All parts of the show were executed extremely well, save a few sound hiccups in the first couple of shows. The acting and performing was professional with rock-star performances from the entire 29 person cast  — not to mention the incredible work of the technical crews, led by stage manager Zach Hansen.

I wish I could see this show over and over again. The music is still running through my head a week later! It was catchy as hell and very unique.

Don’t believe me? Listen to the songs yourself.