Anything But Drowsy: Local Actors Perform Tony Award-Winning Musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”
“It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world. It gives you a little tune to carry with you in your head, you know? A little something to help you escape the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you’re feeling blue, you know?”
These are the words of the old man in the chair, who is played by Bill Brown. He is the host of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a 1998 musical which is the winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Original Score. The musical was performed at the Russell Tripp Performance Center on the past three weekends.
The show opens with the house lights down and the old man on stage, putting on his favorite record: the recording of a 1928 musical. The recording transforms into a real play before the audience and the show begins. The two lovers on their wedding day, their silly best man, a drunk chaperone, a slimy theatre producer, a ditzy hostess, a self-proclaimed master of romance, and two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs come together to create a fun evening of mishaps and celebrations.
Now, you may not have heard of “The Drowsy Chaperone” before. That’s probably because it hasn’t been performed in the Albany-Corvallis area for as long as anyone in the community can remember. One of the most appealing parts of the show is that it is a breath of fresh air in a genre of performance art that can often be repetitive.
“Anyone can say that they’ve seen ‘The Music Man’ or ‘Hello, Dolly!’ before but not too many people can say that they’ve seen this show,” said Director Tim Kelly. “It’s something this community hasn’t seen yet, and that’s what makes it exciting.”
However, bringing this show to the members of the community was no easy feat. It took months of rehearsal, practice, and choreography. In fact, the choreography was so intricate that it took them an entire month to learn it.
“Having to learn an eight-minute tap dancing routine was probably the most difficult part of the show for me,” said lead actor Quentin Kirk, who played Robert Martin. “I’d actually never tapped a day in my life before joining the show!”
The show was performed by a mix of adult and teen actors from the area and current LBCC students. This factored into the depth of the performance, considering most of the characters were played by actors and actresses who were about the age of the characters they were portraying.
The LBCC students who starred in the play are: Jacob Birchard, Samantha Johnson, Jakob Holden, Drew May, Colby Wooten, Bernadette Feyerherm, Jillian Griffith, and Maddie Price.
“There are a whole lot of talented people committed to sharing good work for an affordable price. I think that’s truly what makes this show special,”added Bill Brown, the actor behind the old man in the chair.
His character was perhaps the most important role in the musical. He served as a historical descriptor and narrator of the show, while providing constant comedic relief. But with all the jokes and fun quips came a more serious and reflective side.
In the second act, the old man starts to lament about his younger days, and about how musicals such as this one helped to get him through the tough times that everyone experiences in life. The introduction of these themes not only added a more personal and serious element to a mostly whimsical show, but it also reflected the emotions of the audience and related to how they feel about musicals themselves.
“Since we live in such an art-enriched society, performances such as this one often slip through the cracks. Ideally, this show provides a place for people to hear a story; a chance to step out of the real world for a couple of hours and venture into a whole new one,” Kirk added.
This is the feeling that people crave, and the reason the show was able to fill the Russell Tripp Performance Center for three consecutive weekends. Live theatre isn’t as popular as it once was, but shows like “The Drowsy Chaperone” are what keep it flourishing in today’s day and age.
Story and Photos by Davis Ihde