Review: “The Drowsy Chaperone” is A Triumph on every level

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The Driftwood Players
950 Main St.

The Drowsy Chaperone (Opened on Broadway in 2006)
By Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar, Bob Martin and Greg Morrison
Plays through May 14

Directed by Pauls Macs

Special ASL interpreted performance on Saturday, May 6 at 8pm.

“Drowsy” meant “tipsy” during the 1920s Prohibition era, when polite society relied on euphemisms to describe cavorting; modern women carried on their person silver flasks containing gin; and weddings were at least delayed – if not called off – if the bride was seen by her groom on their wedding day.

Through the advancing decades the mega-wealthy and the celebrity socialites of the Roaring Twenties left their mark on the American music, theatre and arts scenes. Champagne glasses were emptied “bottom’s up!” and then smashed against marble fireplaces – the extravagance!

People were emboldened by impulsiveness, razzle-dazzle, and the brazen blare of big band music. Maybe there was an “edgy” apprehension regarding the impending stock market crash, but very few gave in to their worries.

Art deco was the rage and an opulent Gatsby-like era had already set the stage for luxury, stretch limousines, diamonds and furs by the time The Drowsy Chaperone was to have taken place.

Glamour – and more glamour. The opulent, carefree life of the mega-rich was shamelessly exhibited, and the upper class represented America’s royalty.

And that is precisely what director Pauls Macs has assembled as his cast for The Driftwood Players rendition of The Drowsy Chaperone – Royalty – capital “R”.

From the “tipsy” chaperone played by Tamara C. Davis, who totally rocks it in sable and sequins, to droll English butler Terry Boyd (Underling) who brings in the laughter with his mugging, eye-rolling and “nothing gets past me” uncanny actor’s intuition – this is a very noble cast.

“Underling’s” partner in crime, Jennifer Price (as Mrs. Tottendale) is unrecognizable as the same woman cast as The Wicked Witch (Wizard of Oz) and Queen Aggravaine (Once Upon a Mattress). And who would forget Jennifer’s portrayal as Berthe in Boeing Boeing.

We could easily go right down the line with all 17 main-cast members touting their theatre accomplishments. But suffice it to say that this cast — led lavishly by Patrick J. Lucey-Conklin as “The Man In the Chair” — deserved its opening night and second night standing ovations.

We attended the second night’s performance, which enjoyed a full house that awarded a deserving cast and crew an early standing ovation.

Synopsis: With the houselights down, “The Man In the Chair” appears on stage and puts on his favorite record: It is the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical. The recording comes to life and The Drowsy Chaperone begins with The Man looking on.

With all credit to Lucey-Conklin, we empathize with “The Man In the Chair” — we understand him; he makes it all so real on the most visceral level. In his program statement, director Macs draws our attention to the point of view of “The Man In the Chair” and all is achieved: The Man confides to the audience that The Drowsy Chaperone “does what a musical is supposed to do: It takes you to another word, and it gives you a little tune to carry in your head, a little something for when you’re feeling blue.” Macs continues, “…we all need so desperately to (be helped) along through this frustrating, messy, beautiful, and wonderful thing called life.”

There are so many earnest lessons in what, on the surface, appears to be an amusing parody:

“I hate theatre. I love theatre. It takes you to another world,” initiates “The Man In the Chair” as the lights dim and the audience is drawn into the melancholy reminiscing of a middle-aged musical theatre fan. The Man’s subject is an overblown musical played on an ole’ timey 78 RPM record that scratches, skips and tugs at our hearts as we realize that an era has faded, analogous to the recording.

As “The Man In the Chair” leads us gently back through the nuances, liner notes and fading fame of Broadway’s 1928 stars, a cavalcade of characters dance and sing across the Driftwood boards in the most unlikely ensemble of gangsters, show girls, a movie director, brazen women, an earnest groom and a waxed-moustache, laughably comical Latin lover. (Really? Is that actually Jay Vilhauer as “Aldolpho”? Har har har!)

Jeff Strom, playing movie producer “Feldzieg,” is one of My Edmonds News’ favorites – just solid, impressive, depth of experience from this actor. Strom is a pleasure to watch; you forget so easily that you are being taken to another world – enveloped by the magic.

With music direction by Mark Press and choreography by Carissa Meisner Smit and Elizabeth Posluns, the ensemble shines. What a sharp cast!

Over the past three years we have watched The Driftwood Players find itself on solid footing with a board led by Ted Jaquith (who will direct the company’s next production, “The Game’s Afoot” by Ken Ludwig) and a box office and technical team whose love of the paint spills over into every single performance.

This is a theatre company that puts Edmonds on the map with Seattle playhouse enthusiasts.

You make us so proud, Driftwood Players! Break a leg – Puget Sound is watching and we’re cheering for you.

An enthusiastic ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ thumbs up as we send you on your way to The Driftwood Players box office link, or call the theatre at 425-774-9600.

— By Emily Hill

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