EDINBURGH 2014 - BWW Reviews: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Paradise in Augustines, August 17th 2014
A fresh and funny take on the show within a show concept, The Drowsy Chaperone is a delightful treat for anyone with a fondness for showtunes. A musical theatre geek, the descriptively named "Man in Chair", welcomes the audience to his lonely apartment where he tries to keep himself out of the doldrums by indulging in listening to his favourite show, The Drowsy Chaperone. Popping it on to his record player, the show comes to life around him with its tale of mix-ups, mayhem, and lots of weddings. A love letter to the musical theatre form, it is full of immediately likeable tunes and marvellous jokes that draw on both a pitch-perfect parody of old time musicals and more than a dash of post-modern humour, in a combination that is as much heartwarming as it is hilarious.
It is not a show without its challenges, requiring a leading man who can single-handedly kickstart the show chatting to an audience in the dark, and a cast with impeccable timing, not to mention roller-skating dance numbers and even landing a plane on stage. Luckily for us, Cygnet Players rise to the challenge with aplomb in this polished production that is a true joy to watch. The cast don't put a foot wrong and wring every drop of fun and every laugh out of the script. Highlighting standout performers is hard with a cast this uniformly strong, but Stuart Burrows in the crucial role of Man in Chair has every mannerism of the endearingly neurotic Broadway geek down to an art. Jaco Norval as the bridegroom Robert combines the looks of a matinee idol with fabulously fancy footwork, providing an excellent match to Charlotte Donald who shows a wide range of talents as the starlet Janet. The supporting players threw their all into their performances, particularly Sabi Perez as the eponymous chaperone, and Adam Walker as the Latin lothario Aldolpho, who delighted the audience as he treated the scenery as not so much chewable, but a full gastronomic buffet.
The only real drawback of this wonderful production is that it is only spending a week at the Fringe, with today's performance the last of six. Based on today's performance, it is definitely worth looking out for both Cygnet Players or The Drowsy Chaperone in future. Perhaps the script itself summarises this wonderful musical best as Man in Chair explains his love for the show within a show: "It does what a musical is supposed to do - it lifts you up and gives you a little tune to carry with you in your head for when when you're feeling blue". Combined with a triumphant and utterly delightful production, what more can one ask for?
The Drowsy Chaperone's run has now finished.