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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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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.



The Drowsy Chaperone at The Dio will Lift you Up (Review) September 5, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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What do you do when you feel a bit melancholy, bored, needing to escape for a little? If you love getting lost in a book, a selection of music, or resort to food during those moments, make your way to The Dio in Pinckney. Man in Chair knows exactly how you feel and will take you with him on a rollicking madcap ride, including dinner.

The Drowsy Chaperone, with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, is a delight. Dio co-owner Steve DeBruyne serves up the delicious fun, both literally as your waiter and figuratively as a performer/director. This one-act musical comedy takes place in the living room of a solitary man who plays his favorite record album, the fictional musical Drowsy Chaperone, to distract himself from his lonely day. When the record is playing, the musical comes to life on stage as the man watches gleefully from his comfy chair, lifting the record player arm between numbers to speak directly to the audience as he offers up his own very opinionated commentary on the plot, characters and actors themselves. Though The Drowsy Chaperone debuted in Toronto in 1998, it wasn’t until it’s opening on Broadway in 2006, after some revisions, when it received its due praise, winning five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards.

While there are some outstanding performances, the show truly shines as an ensemble work, with each performer giving their character its exaggerated due diligence, beginning with Man In Chair as played by loveable Patrick O’Reilly who sets the tone. Dan Morrison as the theatrical producer/agent Mr. Feldzieg is a stand out as is The Chaperone herself, played by Marlene Inman. I wish there was more to see and hear from characters Underling (played by Dale Dobson as the straight man in the zany lot) and Trix (played by Bryana Hall whose lovely voice was sometimes difficult to hear above the ensemble). I have to say the costumes are a character of their own and deserve their own standing ovation for their genuine period style and detail from glitzy headbands to gartered stockings, thanks to Costume Designer Norma Polk. The set has several clever touches I will not ruin for you by describing. The show was tight and moved at a good pace, including intentional “awkward” pauses.

You will not be disappointed with the menu either. Don’t be fooled by the basic offerings because Chef Jarod’s signature flash-fried chicken is every bit as wonderful as you may have heard and the dessert is simply scrumptious. You can view the menu on their website. Dietary-restrictive patrons have options as well. Call the box office ahead of time for special requests but, by all means, call. Get tickets. You won’t regret it.

Performances run through October 18th. The Dio Theatre, 177 East Main Street, Pinckney, MI. 517-672-6009 or online at diotheatre.com

Highly Recommended.

—- Thank you to Patricia Mazzola for the guest review of The Drowsy Chaperone! Please note that this was a review of the final preview performance of The Drowsy Chaperone on Thursday September 3rd.

Very funny “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Performance Network (review) Ann Arbor, MI November 21, 2010

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, musical theater, Theatre.
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Performance Network in Ann Arbor is currently presenting the first professional Michigan production of The Drowsy Chaperone, and it is high on fun, sparse on tickets (it’s been extended to January 2nd) and a good musical in residence for the holidays. The more you know about musical theater, the more you will love the extraordinary book of the show. There is nothing particularly offensive for the young ones, but I would leave the pre-teens and younger at home. There are entire websites devoted to discussing the insider theater jokes and veiled references in the show.

First, let me say that it is difficult to review a regional production of a show that I saw on Broadway twice and whose professional Broadway tour passed through within the past year, using the original Broadway sets and costumes, and featuring what was arguably the Best Performance by a male actor in any tour anywhere during the past year (Craig Treubert as Man in Chair). See my review of that tour here:


That being said, I found myself laughing and enjoying the entire production at the Performance Network. Carla Milarch’s direction is fast and breezy, and a bit over the top as the show presents it’s “musical within a comedy”. This cast sells the production well — Naz Edwards should be declared a national treasure, and she does a wonderful job in the role of the Chaperone. Another superior performance is turned in by Scott Crownover as lothario Adolpho. He steals every scene that he is in (by design), and when he and Naz are on stage together, theater magic takes place.

Phil Powers is strong in the role of Man in Chair and the rest of the cast is very good. To be sure, there is some unevenness, but the energy is palpable. The show is nicely accompanied by a four-piece ensemble that sounds larger than it is, and R. MacKenize Lewis has done a terrific job with the musical direction throughout — the diction and sound are very good. What a joy to hear every word of the deliciously funny book and lyrics.

Phil Simmons choreography is fine though a bit cramped in the PerfNet space. But he makes good use of the entire set, and what a set it is — Monika Essen has created another fine set that makes the stage look larger than it really is, and which has some nice touches, including a staircase that comes and goes, and rotating panel walls that change according to scene. It looks great. It’s all well-lit by Justin Lang and well costumed by Suzanne Young. You will be hard-pressed to find a better looking show this holiday season.

The sound of the taps in the dance number by Matt Anderson (George) and Brian Thibault (Robert) gets muffled on the non-resonant stage floor, but it’s a fine number overall and something PerfNet audiences have not seen in any of their musicals. Plus, I am partial to tap dancing. A later novelty number on roller skates does not work as well in the cramped space. Neither does the ending, since without flyspace it’s difficult to make anything magical of the airplane sequence at the end of the show (although PerfNet’s is clever and looks great). It leaves Man in Chair firmly earthbound at the end of the show instead of lifting off with the rest of the cast. A minor quibble in an otherwise well done technical production.

Once again, Performance Network presents a well-crafted and performed professional musical theater production that they should be proud of.

The Drowsy Chaperone continues at Performance Network Theater through January 2nd. Tickets are available at performancenetwork.org or by phone at 734-663-0681.