Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sarah Hayes, left, as Trix in The Little Theatre of Manchester's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," through Nov. 20. (Photo by Chris Heustis.)
"The Drowsy Chaperone" a grand, luscious musical at Little Theatre of Manchester
MANCHESTER — Don’t feel bad if you missed “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Broadway, because you can see the rousing, raucous, rambunctious production of this delightful musical right here at the Little Theatre of Manchester.
This show has everything you could ask for in a musical — fun, frolicsome songs, a lighthearted story, talented performers, dynamic dancing (by director Todd Santa Maria), vibrant costumes (Christopher Clark), and a solid set (Joe Russo).
It’s really a show within a show, with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellarson, and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
The narrator, played with sweet sensitivity by Chad Shipley, is going through a bitter divorce and tries to cheer himself up by playing the soundtrack to a fictional 1928 musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
He says he hates the modern theater and doesn’t like intermissions, but adores this old musical.
He takes the audience with him through the record he has listened to many times, playing it on an old-fashioned record player.
“There’s a mixup, some mayhem, and a gay wedding,” says the narrator, referring to a time when “gay” had a different connotation.
Janet (a terrific Kristen Shaw), the glamorous star performer in a Feldzieg Follies show, decides to marry oil tycoon Robert (a dapper Ric Plamenco) and leave the theater forever.
Producer Feldzieg (played with panache by Mike Zizka) is in trouble with some thugs for losing his leading lady and does his best to end the wedding.
He gets leading man Adolpho (played with flourish by John-Michael Whitney) to seduce Janet and break up the impending wedding, but Adolpho seduces her chaperone instead.
Nicole Giguere is at her theatrical best playing the chaperone — who is drowsy because she is drunk most of the time.
This was set during prohibition, so they call vodka “ice water.”
Giguere’s role is that of a Broadway star who gets to sing anthems in the middle of shows, even if they have little to do with the musical, the narrator explains.
The dancing is wonderful too, with excellent tap dancing by Plamenco and George (Rick Fountain), who dance and sing to “Cold Feets,” with direction from tap choreographer Sheila Waters Fucci.
The athletic Plamenco is Gene Kelly to graceful Fountain’s Fred Astaire. They were both fantastic, as was Plamenco when he roller-skated while blindfolded.
Mike King and Jimmy Donohue are a fantastic comic duo as the punny, harmless gangsters who become stars thanks to Feldzieg. They sing “Toledo Surprise” and are joined by the rest of the company, which is one of the best of many songs in the show.
Other strong performances include Jillian Holt as the ditzy starlet Kitty, Kathy Cook as the wealthy matron Tottendale, and David Lally as the unflappable servant Underling.
The band was strong, but often too strong, and competed with all but the most powerful vocalists, even though they were miked. Either crank up those mikes or tone down the musicians, or both.
Although there’s no intermission, there is a second act that starts with a bizarre Chinese number, until we learn that it is the wrong record playing.
It is a whimsical touch to this delicious musical, and they really took it to the limit.
The costumes, by first-time costume designer Clark are as numerous as they are gorgeous, especially Janet’s brilliant red gown that was only seen momentarily. The costumes were funny too, including the hysterically silly hats with paper lanterns in the Chinese sequence.
Kudos also to Russo for that spectacular biplane that Trix (a high flying Sarah Hayes) lands on the stage.
The show is a loving homage to the days of old time musical extravaganzas, and LTM really lived up to all that this show demands.
Come have a grand time celebrating the luscious musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” playing through Nov. 20.
"The Drowsy Chaperone"
Theater: Little Theatre of Manchester
Location: Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester.
Production: Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellarson. Directed and choreographed by Todd Santa Maria. Music direction by Angela Klimaytis. Tap choreographer Sheila Waters Fucci. Technical direction by Glen Aliczi. Costume design by Christopher Clark. Stage Manager Gretchen Wiedie. Set design by Joe Russo. Lighting design by Meg Ryan.
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission
Show times: Today, Nov. 10, and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., through Nov. 20.
Tickets: $22-$29. Call the box office at 860-647-9824, or visit:
Chad Shipley.............Man in Chair
Nicole Giguere...........Drowsy Chaperone
Mike King................Gangster #1
Jimmy Donohue............Gangster #2
Christine Noble, Diane AmEnde, Susan Melnick, Debbie Gustafson, and Joe Lucenti..................Ensemble
4 stars Excellent 3 stars Good 2 stars Fair 1 star Poor