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Review: ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ a fast-paced, must-see feat of musical theatre

  • Bridget Beirne and Elyse Collier in The Peterborough Players’ production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" running Aug. 1 through Aug. 12, 2018. Photos by Will Howell—

  • Kirby Ward in The Peterborough Players’ production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" running Aug. 1 through Aug. 12, 2018. Photos by Will Howell—

  • Rebecca Brinkley, Jack Koenig, Troyer Coultas and Ryan Alexander Jacobs in The Peterborough Players’ production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" running Aug. 1 through Aug. 12, 2018. Photos by Will Howell—

  • Elyse Collier and Joe Bigelow in The Peterborough Players’ production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" running Aug. 1 through Aug. 12, 2018. Photos by Will Howell—



In the Reviewer’s Chair 
Friday, August 03, 2018 1:21PM

Imagine the something you love most in the world. Something that’s foolish and endearing; perplexing perhaps at times, but something you adore nonetheless in its entirety. In fact, maybe that something is a someone, maybe it’s a particularly fantastic novel, or maybe it’s that one perfect song that reminds you of that one perfect and indescribable emotion so poignant you want to live in it forever. Or maybe that something is a musical, as is the case of the narrator in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” currently playing the Peterborough Players through Aug. 12.

The Man in Chair, played with wit and charm by the outstanding Kraig Swartz, holds his favorite musical in the highest regard. That musical is “The Drowsy Chaperone,” giving the show its title, and it’s terribly silly in the best imaginable way.

Man in Chair certainly thinks so at least and as he plays us the soundtrack on a two record set – yes, records – we find ourselves transported into the year 1928 to the wedding day of Robert Martin and Janet Van de Graaf as the story plays out, and where everything goes hilariously wrong, before our eyes in Man in Chair’s apartment.

Through two acts full of stellar and energetic performances on the part of the entire Peterborough Players cast, we see a seemingly endless amount of charming nonsense including gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a scene devoted to at least a dozen spit-takes, an airplane pilot who comes out of nowhere and the most absurd dream sequence anyone could have imagined.

There’s even an entire number, a personal favorite of mine now, where Robert Martin, played by Joe Bigelow, roams about a garden on roller skates wearing a blindfold while Elyse Collier’s Janet Van de Graaf follows him around pretending to be a French woman.

The main plot follows these two, but the B-plot is that of dimwitted showgirl Kitty, played to an endearing level of cluelessness by Rebecca Brinkley, and her producer Feldzieg, portrayed here by Jack Koenig, as she attempts to become a leading lady and he attempts to stop Janet from getting married.

This leads to Aldolpho, played with flair by Tom Frey, who claims to be a ladies man, but who’s clearly in love with himself the most, going so far as to sing an entire song about himself to the immensely alcohol dependent Chaperone of the title, played splendidly by Bridget Beirne.

Directed by Gus Kaikkonen, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is strange and enjoyable, with outstanding choreography by Kirby Ward, who plays frazzled best man George in the show and whom you might know for playing the role of Bobby Child in West End’s production of “Crazy For You.”

The number “Love Is Always Lovely” is painfully naive in nature, sung by the delusional Mrs. Tottendale to her butler Underling, portrayed by the stunning pair of Kathy Manfre and Will Champion, but it’s charming nonetheless.

Everything ends happily for the characters in his favorite musical, but as Man in Chair painfully reveals through the course of the show – from his experience real-life happy endings are elusive at best, if not entirely nonexistent. But for two hours he feels so overwhelmingly joyful he doesn’t think about anything else.

That’s the marvel of musical theatre isn’t it? You disappear into a whole different world where people burst into song and dance out of nowhere and where the harmonies and your heart soar in tandem and where nothing else matters for a short while.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a fast-paced, must see feat of musical theatre. It’s a ridiculous show indeed, lively and bizarre, but it does what a musical is meant to do, as Man in Chair puts it, it’s so outlandish and unlikely, that it cheers you up even when you’re suffering from non-specific sadness.

Man in Chair poses at one point the question, “To live or to leave?” Well, and I cannot speak for everyone of course, no matter how you choose to live after seeing this show you will leave it with a face sore from smiling and laughing. In the end, is that not the most wonderful kind of pain a person could hope to experience?

What: “The Drowsy Chaperone”

When: Aug. 1 – Aug. 12

Where: The Peterborough Players 55 Hadley Rd., Peterborough

Cost: $45

Information: (603) 924-7585 or www.peterboroughplayers.org

Cheyenne Heinselman is an actress and a playwright, a member of the International Thespian Society Troupe #7883, as well as an avid and opinionated supporter of the arts.