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The Drowsy Chaperone

Squabbologic Independent Music Theatre in association with Hayes Theatre Company proudly present THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar at the Hayes Theatre, Darlinghurst.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, at the Hayes Theatre is another on-target HIT, following on from the sell-out SWEET CHARITY, seen last month. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is, also, another on-target HIT from the Squabbologic Independent Music Theatre, following on from their production, late last year, of CARRIE: The Musical. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is a sure-fire night of delicious ‘fluff’, impeccably presented with a joie de vivre that is very, very infectious.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE began in Toronto, as a small bridal joke made by some theatre people as a stag party gift for the groom. It was expanded and expanded, played at the Rivoli Theatre, in Toronto, in 1998, was seen by an American Broadway producer, and subsequently opened at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on May 1st, 2006, where it played for 674 performances and 32 previews, to go on to win 5 Tony Awards, including Best Book (Bob Martin & Don McKellar) and Best Original Score (Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison). From little things big things can grow!

An obsessed musical theatre fan (you know who, among your fiends, oops friends, he/she could be!) greets us in the darkness to invite us to sit with him while he plays for us a rare recording of a now forgotten Broadway musical called THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, starring now forgotten artists. (Drowsy in 1920’s prohibition-speak signifies tipsy). He promises us it has a story “and a few good songs that will take me (you) away” – what any good musical should do! This Man in the Chair (Jay James-Moody) sitting in a dingy apartment space (kitchen-dining area), pulls a vinyl recording from its sleeve, and puts it on, giving us detailed information about the all and sundry of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, that, really, only the obsessive would know, and, and REMEMBER (he will, often, through the course of the experience, give us his extensive and loving knowledge – it is not bothersome, often enhancing and amusing). The scratch and crackle of the sound of the needle on the recording nostalgically captures him (us), and suddenly, the music and plot come to life in front of us : costumed, singing, dancing and acting, all in this very ordinary place. The magic of theatre is brought to us, via the refrigerator, kitchen cupboard draws, and the front and back doors of this apartment.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is an affectionate construct/tribute to the musical theatre of the 1920’s – the songs are catchy and light-hearted (e.g. Show Off, Toledo Surprise), the characters easily recognised and understood, the story predictable and ‘lovely’, all with a delicious concoction of singing and dance routines to fulfil our expectations of what a good (old fashioned musical) should be! The illusion of location environment is amusingly solved with two back windows that have images of chandeliers or sky clouds or, etc, changing, to clue us in. The properties that are necessary for the action appear and disappear easily, and by the time an aeroplane has to appear, perforce of plot demands, our imaginative puissance is so engaged, that along with the artists (much like Mickey and Judy could/did), we conjure it with ironing boards as wings, and hair brooms as propellers – sheer delight! Add the history lessons about the traditions and techniques of theatre entertainments – vaudeville routines etc – a very enlightening, invigorating time can be had – lots and lots of easy in-jokes to chortle to. When was your last musical just sheer escapist fun?

The ensemble is truly an ensemble, and are all playing at a meticulous and joyful 100%. Congratulations. I had special delight in the work of Steven Kreamer and Richard Woodhouse, as the Gangsters; Brett O’Neill as Robert, the groom; Ross Chisari as George, the bridal organiser (especially when he tap-dances); and the particular pleasure of Hilary Cole, as the bride, Janet Van De Graf – last I saw her was as Carrie – what a delicious voice and presence she has.

Jay James-Moody plays, consummately, the Man in the Chair, and is also the Director of the show. Well done – he has a real talent to amuse. He, also, apparently, has the ability to attract real talent to him: Clever Scene Design, by Lauren Peters; Great costume magic, by Elizabeth Franklin; Lighting Design, by Sian James-Holland; Amusing and inventive Choreography, by Monique Salle (who also sings and dances as Trix the Aviatrix), and a wonderful music director, Paul Geddes, who with a small group of 5 other musicians give a marvellous live sound to the score, aided and abetted by a truly expert and apt Sound Design, ably cued in performance for maximum effect, by Jessica James-Moody.

I had seen the original on Broadway and kind of remember it. Geoffrey Rush played it in a Melbourne Theatre Company production in 2010, and is producing a film version, starring himself as The Man in the Chair. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is a fun time and maintains, gloriously, for Music Theatre fans especially, the expectations of the SWEET CHARITY production.

Get your tickets immediately – only seats 118 a night! (Closes April 6th.)

Next, is a new Australian Musical, ‘Truth, beauty and a picture of you”. Music and Lyrics by Tim Freedman (from,The Whitlams), Book by Tim Freedman and Alex Broun. Due May, 9th. Great.