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Review: STAGES St. Louis' Uproariously Funny THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

You say that you're feeling a little blue, or maybe just experiencing some "non-specific" sadness? Then a sure cure for your condition can be found by attending STAGES St. Louis' scintillating presentation of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. This is an incredible and uproariously funny show that pokes gentle fun at the very core of musical theatre conventions. Everything is fair game in Bob Martin and Don McKellar's witty script, which even manages to lampoon opening blackouts and intermissions. This revival is a much welcomed and thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I can't remember the last time I've laughed so hard!

A character known only as the Man in the Chair narrates this amusing take on musicals from the late 1920's. When he's feeling a little down he plays the records (yes, records) of the original cast album of his favorite musical, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE by Gable and Stein. It's a silly piece of fluff that follows the standard "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" plot. The twist here is that all the characters that inhabit it suddenly come to life on stage in a gloriously wacky display that's occasionally interrupted by stray phone calls, or a knock on the door from the building super. During this amazing "visualization", the Man in the Chair fills in background information on the various performers, and occasionally participates in the action (although he's "invisible" to the other actors), providing some memorable moments in the process.

David Schmittou is an absolutely perfect fit as The Man in the Chair, radiating just the right mix of infectious enthusiasm and smarmy sarcasm to fully temper the experience. Schmittou is an affable and engaging presence throughout, offering up smart and tart punchlines that never fail to miss their mark. It's a truly brilliant performance.

Andrew Fitch and Laura E. Taylor are especially appealing as the young lovers, Robert Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, respectively. Janet is leaving show business for the married life, and Taylor does just remarkable work on "Show Off,", as she demonstrates the very talents she'll no longer be delivering to her public. A highlight has her singing "The Bride's Lament," a lyrically-challenged song with a catchy melody that I'm still trying to get out of my head. Fitch is very good, especially when he dons a blindfold while wearing roller skates (don't ask). His tap dancing skills, along with those of his best man and wedding planner, George, who's smartly played by Con O'Shea-Creal, are shown to good effect during a number called "Cold Feets."

Kari Ely is delightful as the continually absent-minded hostess, Mrs. Tottendale, delivering neatly addled versions of "Fancy Dress" and "Love is Always Lovely." John Flack aids her in her comic hi-jinks as the much-beleaguered, and forever-deadpan, Underling. Steve Isom adds a considerable spark as Janet's greedy producer Feldzieg, who employs a local Lothario in order to put a monkey wrench in her wedding plans, while Dana Winkle is appropriately goofy, and unabashedly determined to make it in show business, as Kitty.

Edward Juvier is a force of nature as Aldolpho, an outlandish, romantic caricature, who tries to woo Janet, but winds up bedding the chaperone instead. Juvier is lovingly over the top as he chews the scenery, and brings down the house in so doing. Corrine Melancon is a hoot as the besotted Drowsy Chaperone, upstaging her fellow actors at every opportunity, and belting out a rousing version of the show's anthem, "As We Stumble Along."

Additional support is provided by Ryan Alexander Jacobs and Austin Glen Jacobs as a wonderfully knockabout comedic pair of gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, while Kendra Lynn Lucas brings vibrant energy to her role as an aviatrix named Trix.

Michael Hamilton's direction is simply superb, providing an enjoyable, brisk paced, evening of entertainment that never disappoints, and which is consistently razor sharp in execution. Dana Lewis contributes the cute choreography, and we're once again treated to exceptional vocal work produced under the guidance of musical director Lisa Campbell Albert. James Wolk's scenic design is just chock full of visual treats, even before it opens up and allows the musical to come to vivid life. Brad Musgrove's sumptuous period costumes are spectacular, and Sean M. Savoie's lighting snugly fits each mood presented.

STAGES St. Louis' latest offering is a modern musical classic that anyone who loves theatre can certainly appreciate. Don't miss their hilarious revival of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. You have no excuse not to see this genuinely delicious treat! Catch it through August 21, 2016.

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