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Hilarious “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Croswell Opera House (review) August 13, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Croswell Opera House, musical theater, Musicals.
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The-Drowsy-Chaperone

Croswell Opera House opened its final musical of the summer season, The Drowsy Chaperone, last night in Adrian — and they have saved the best for last! Drowsy is a musical theater-lovers dream show, and it is hilarious and exceptionally well done at Croswell.

Man in Chair (gifted and very funny Patrick Toth) settles in to tell the audience the story of 1920’s musical theater “chestnut” The Drowsy Chaperone, complete with fond anecdotes about the cast, the show, and an equally catty look at musicals today. Toth is onstage the entire evening and the work that he does is remarkable. Never out of character, he guides, narrates, and even participates in some of the scenes. Great job. He does exactly what the opening monologue says he will do — transport you to another place, even if it is inside his apartment.

Equally wonderful are Erica Wyman as the chaperone, whose boozy “As We Stumble Along” equaled or maybe excelled over Beth Leavel’s tony-winning performance last night as she performed “the greatest anthem to alcoholism”; and Franny Kromminga as ingenue Janet — who clearly is having the time of her life “not showing off no more”. Matthew Pecek plays a spry bridegroom, Robert, and Joseph Ball a hilarious best man George. Suzanne Smith and Stephen Kiersey are delightful as Tottendale and Underling. Jared Hoffert is very funny as he chews the scenery as producer Feldzieg, and Jamie Lynn Buechele, as his girlfriend Kitty, shines in a hilarious vocal role. Throw in John Bacarella and Peter Stewart as dancing gangsters, a wonderful over the top performance by Bruce Hardcastle as Adolpho (whaaaat?), and fine Lori Macdonald as Trix the Aviatrix.

The leads are supported by a strong ensemble (though at times there are too many of them on stage making some scenes feel like, well, there are too many people on stage). But they sing and dance well, and help with set changes as necessary. Everything moves non-stop, even acting scenes take on a musical tone and movement. Bravo.

Director Mark DiPietro has done a masterful job keeping everything barreling along, laugh after laugh, and choreographer Delle Clair has provided fun (and audience pleasing) choreography including a plentiful smattering of tap. Musical Director Jonathan Sills stellar vocal work shows throughout, and his wonderful orchestra does the Croswell proud yet again.

Doug Miller has created a gorgeous set, and it all works well and runs like clockwork. Pam Krage and Emily Gifford designed the many beautiful (and often large) costume pieces. Tiff Crutchfield has lit it all in colorful broadway shades and it works well on the stage.

It should be noted that this otherwise intermission-less musical has an intermission added at the Croswell — so that instead of being out the door on your way to after-show drinks at 9:50, you’ll be there a bit later.

I have now seen Drowsy many times — and it makes me laugh out loud every time. DiPietro has mined the show for even more laughs than I can recall — and it made me feel positively giddy at the end of the evening.

Very Highest Recommendation.

The Drowsy Chaperone continues at The Croswell Opera House through August 21st. Tickets at croswell.org or by calling 517-264-SHOW

Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar.

 

 

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This Fair Lady has Done Me In (Review – Encore Musical Theatre Company) August 6, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Photo courtesy Encore staff photographer, Michele Anliker

 

Lerner and Loewe’s MY FAIR LADY is probably the last musical you would expect to see at the Encore Musical Theatre Company – how do  you make all those costumes and sets work in a space that small? Well let me tell you, the production that opened last night at the Encore is not only scrumptious, but it is the finest musical they have done to date. Consider yourself lucky if you have a ticket, because its entire run is sold out.

Jessica Grové is a remarkable Eliza Doolittle and this is her musical top to bottom, acting, singing, and having the time of her life. You can’t keep your eyes off of her and her powerhouse performance, whether that is singing her way through a lovely “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” (with some great vocal support by the male quartet) or tearing through the more dramatic “Show Me”, leaving suitor Freddy literally floored.

Daniel Gerroll plays a dynamic Henry Higgins and his interactions with Eliza have a particular poignancy. The wordplay and meaning are clear in this intimate setting. Their interactions in Act II brought an angle to the show I had not considered before, and it works well here. Eliza’s transformation is particularly compelling, while Higgins goes for a slightly different ride than the usual take on the part.

There’s a wonderful performance by UM Musical Theater senior Riley McFarland as Freddy whose vocal chops soar in “On the Street Where You Live”; Dale Dobson turns in a fun Colonel Pickering; and always one of my favorites Keith Kalinowski plays a boisterous and humor-laden Alfred Doolittle singing and dancing his merry way through “With a Little Bit of Luck” and later the very fun “Get Me To The Church on Time”.

The entire ensemble is terrific — and they sing, dance, and support the leads throughout. The work here is simply stellar from top to bottom. Great to see old favorites on stage, as well as a handful of newcomers who I hope stay here forever.

Director and Designer Tony Walton has created a sumptuous feast of a musical, and despite its long (three hour) length, it never feels too slow. The sets fit in a jigsaw puzzle fashion in the space, and everything looks open and airy. Projections by Mr Walton are gorgeous, at times black and white, at times spotted with color, and representational of the original Broadway sets. It works magnificently here, and with no surprise given Mr Walton’s Tony/Drama Desk/Academy Award background. He’s helped by some terrific lighting by Robert Perry, gorgeous costumes by Caitlin Graham and Yuka Silvera (Eliza’s costumes). Choreography by Matthew Brennan is appropriate to the space and never repetitive. Anne Donevan’s props looks terrific as does Andy Galicki’s projection work. Tyler Driskill has done his usual excellent vocal work as musical director, and his 6-piece backstage band sounds terrific throughout.

As mentioned earlier — the entire run, every single ticket is sold out. If you hold a ticket, consider yourself the bearer of treasure, because you will not want to miss this MY FAIR LADY. There is a cancellation list at the box office — which is several pages long. I suggest you join it if you are looking for tickets – any tickets – to this production.

Very Highest Recommendation.