BWW Reviews: DROWSY We Are Not!

The Cape Playhouse is known for its professional grade theater with spectacular productions filled with talented actors and musicians, certain that everything seen or heard by the audience is truly something wonderful to behold. As the Playhouse boasts, it is THE place Broadway comes to when the weather is warm, the sun is out and Cape Cod residents and visitors alike are in the mood for some amazing summer theater. The Playhouse is now in its 89th season, and has already wowed audiences with its first production of The Velocity of Autumn, starring the incomparable Beth Fowler.

Now, to continue in the tradition of giving each of us the theatrical experience we truly relish and yearn for this time of year (if not always!), the Playhouse brings a stellar production of five-time Tony Award Winner The Drowsy Chaperone to a Cape Cod audience, and let me just put it out there now that this production does everything but cause any sort of drowsiness; that is reserved for the title character as she joins a cast of beyond talented performers who make this show the great experience we all so hope to have at the theater. As that lovable man in his chair states, audiences hope for a show that will whisk it away to another world for a couple of hours, sucking each of us into the plot of a new, interesting and at times slightly tumultuous show; hold on to your hats for this one.

With a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music/lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, The Drowsy Chaperone is by far one of the best selections from Cape Playhouse's always impressive repertoire of shows, and this production almost has the almost effortless ability to capture the attention of all who bear witness to the laughter, tears, schemes of seduction and the overall good times had on the Playhouse's beautiful proscenium stage.

The Drowsy Chaperone is one of those shows that is inherently comical in its nature: it is literally laugh-out-loud funny, portraying the lives and actions of each of its characters as almost too absurd to be believed. Each is faced with some sort of dilemma, and even though such quandaries maintain their weight and significance to each person throughout the show, the audience can honestly look at what each person faces and laugh due to how funny each issue is presented. It is a feel-good musical that is able to use the term "drama" rather loosely, and the Playhouse's production of Chaperone is truly spectacular, making people laugh in the all the right places and forcing them to yearn for the culmination of this rather wacky story.BWW Reviews: DROWSY We Are Not!

Taking place in an old studio apartment, where all of the action occurs as a manifestation of what The Drowsy Chaperone was in times past, and occurs because of an old man's (played by the very personable and wonderfully charming Simon Jones*) desire to "change it up" and entertain both he and his imaginary audience as he puts his record of the show on the player. His extensive knowledge of all who made the original production of Chaperone come to life once upon a time literally allows this musical to live again as this man's mental reenactment of the musical suddenly turns into the musical that is a pleasure for the audience to behold. As the record player begins playing, we are transported back to a production of The Drowsy Chaperone that is accompanied by the old man's narrative and witty, interspersed comments that at times stop the show to add some more humor to an already funny story. So, what becomes the second plot - the manifestation of the musical itself - begins, and the audience is treated to a conglomerate of fun as each character is introduced.

We have Janet Van Der Graaf (Julie Kavanagh*), a successful performer who, after meeting a very handsome and dapper Robert Martin (Danny Gardner*), decides to give up a life of glitz and glamour to marry a man she has barely begun to know but has an uncanny feeling that he is "the one." Amongst her confusion as to whether or not she is making a mistake in thinking she loves this man is the Drowsy Chaperone (Michele Ragusa*), a woman who is very much into her drinks and whose responsibility it is to watch Janet and make sure nothing goes awry with the wedding. Add the best man George (John Scacchetti*), who is desperately trying to make sure the wedding runs smoothly,

the erratic and wildly entertaining Mrs. Tottendale (Jo Anne Worley*), who is not exactly sure what is going on, along with her pleasantly baffled Underling (James Dybas*), who serves as a reminder of what is going on, manager Mr. Feldzieg (Bill Nolte*) and his ambitious employee Kitty (Kristen Mengelkoch*) who argue over whether or not Janet's decision to leave is a good idea, the two gangsters posing as pastry chefs and under the employment of Mr. Feldzieg (Elliott Mattox*) to make sure the wedding doesn't happen, and Ben Liebert*), the absolutely hilarious thinks-he's-a-Latin-lover Adolpho (Craig Laurie*) and the feisty Trix the Aviatrix (Dan'yelle Williamson*), who comes in almost randomly but does so with a bang nonetheless, and this show is truly something special.

Topping off these leading performances with ensemble members Karen Hyland* and Lauren Kadel*, in addition to the very efficient Superintendent (Guss Cuddy), who basically ends this tale by making sure all is ok within the man's apartment so that many more stories can be told there, Kudos must also be given to the wonderful orchestra, conducted by Michael Rice. The Drowsy Chaperone is really a beautiful show that is saturated with singing, dancing, some very odd characters and an almost too-simple plot that makes this show awesome.

Just to say a bit about the cast, each person involved is absolutely brilliant. Not only is everyone ridiculously talented, one moment singing and looking great and the next involved in an elaborate dance number or very impressive tap routine, I have to say that each character upon that stage was portrayed as a unique individual. Each actor really did his or her research in terms of what they wanted the character to be like, and the choices made were incredibly strong and grounded; this show demands that there are no weak characters, and to have a definite sense of character is imperative for this show to work. For example, what would Adolpho be if he did not truly believe himself a self-proclaimed ladies man? What would the Drowsy Chaperone be without her need for both alcohol and a man to add to her laissez faire lifestyle? Each actor, from Latin lovers to chaperones in name alone, really made this musical an almost wonderfully effortless success - one which everyone was hopefully able to see!

The Drowsy Chaperone at the Cape Playhouse, located at 820 Main Street, 6A within the Cape Cod Center of the Arts in Dennis, began performances on June 30th and will continue thru July 11th. Ticket prices vary, and may be purchased by visiting the box office, by calling (508).385.3911 or by checking out capeplayhouse.com. Please be sure to get your tickets early for the group's upcoming productions of Women in Jeopardy, My Fair Lady, Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike and Murder by Misadventure.

Enjoy the show!

Photo Credit: Mimi de Quesada

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