by Lorie Lewis Ham
If you are a fan of old musicals from the 1920s and 1930s then you won’t want to miss the Reedley River City Theatre Company’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone! While the Drowsy Chaperone actually debuted in 1998 as a parody of the old musical comedies, it brings back memories of those fun musicals I used to watch on Channel 26 when I was a kid.
The show opens in the living room of a middle-aged musical theatre fan (the Man in the Chair). He is blue so he decides to play the record of his favorite musical; the 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone. When he plays the record, the show bursts into life on the stage. Throughout the story, he provides commentary about the music, story, and actors. Everything about this show is over the top–much like many of the old musicals of the past–with plenty of laughs, singing, and even some tap dancing.
In the musical within the musical, you have the story of the upcoming wedding between oil tycoon Robert Martin (Joseph Ham) and Broadway star Janet Van De Graaf (Alexis Macedo), who plans to give up her career for married life. There are several who wish to prevent this from happening, so of course comedy ensues–Broadway producer Mr. Feldzieg (Mason Garcia) doesn’t want to lose his money maker and two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs (Sarah Andrew Bailey & Isaiah Bueno) have a vested interest in her continuing to perform as well. However, a young actress named Kitty (Frances Callahan) would be perfectly happy to see Janet quit as she wants to take her place, but Kitty isn’t very bright or very good. Other characters include Robert’s best friend and best man George (Carson Rogalsky), a self described king of romance named Aldolpho (Eric Bailey), the hostess of the wedding Mrs. Tottendale (Marianne McFarlin), her butler Underling (Mark Luzania), Trix the aviatrix (Bethany Houghton), and Janet’s alcoholic “drowsy chaperone” (Abbey Hofer) (Hence the title).
The Drowsy Chaperone is one of the funnest shows I have ever seen, though it does have its sad and serious moments too. It is filled with everything any musical comedy lover could want, including songs you will be humming when you leave. Favorites for me include Robert’s song that he sings when he is getting nervous about getting married, “Cold Feets.” He performs this song with George and it includes some fun tap dancing, and a bit with a mirror. Janet’s song “Show Off,” where she seems to be trying to convince herself that she doesn’t want to be a star anymore. And Aldolpho’s song “I Am Aldolpho,” which is hilarious.
Due to a performance conflict, The Man in the Chair at the performance that we saw was played by the show’s director, Taniman Clark, who while he had a few stumbles with some of the lines, brought a lot of heart to the role. Steven Haynes will be playing the role for the other performances.
Joseph Ham was wonderful as always–showing that not only can he sing and act, but now he can even tap dance. Carson Rogalsky was also delightful as George, and the pair have a great chemistry. Alexis Macedo is once again playing the love interest of Joseph’s character–she played Buddy Holly’s wife in the Buddy Holly Story. Alexis has a beautiful voice, and nice chemistry with Joseph. Marianne McFarland and Mark Luzania, as Mrs. Tottendale and Underling, also had some very funny, and some sweet, moments. Francis, as Kitty, has really good comedic timing, and Mason, as the producer was also quite funny. Tommie Hill deserves kudos for doing a great job with the costumes.
This show will have you laughing and smiling most of the way through, with perhaps a tear or two shed for the loneliness of the Man In the Chair–for whom among us hasn’t taken comfort in some form of entertainment to chase away the blues.
So head out to the Opera House in Reedley and see this fun show–it is a perfect distraction from all of the political craziness invading all of our lives right now, just as the old musicals were a perfect escape from the hard times and wars of their day. Please go out and support this lovely cast and RCTC! The show plays until October 30, you can learn more and purchase tickets on their website.
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