Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Drowsy Chaperone at Broadway Rose

The lively cast of the Drowsy Chaperone has no "weak link."


By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

In the six years we’ve lived in Portland, we have attended dozens of theatrical productions (from the “big guns” downtown to our local elementary school). We’ve been consistently impressed by the diversity, scope, and quality of the region’s theater. Nothing, however, prepared us for the sheer entertainment value of Broadway Rose’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” We have seen many of the cast members (uniformly superb) in other shows, at Broadway Rose and elsewhere, but this particular assemblage of script, direction, choreography, orchestra, and cast comes together in that magical way that says “run, don’t walk, to get your tickets!”

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a newer show, having debuted on Broadway (and having earned five Tony Awards) in 2006. As Director Lyn Cramer says, “This musical comedy is packed full of every gimmick, bit, cliché, and gag from musical theater’s golden age.” For readers unfamiliar with the story – beyond saying that it follows the convention of a “show within a show” we will not attempt to describe the plot. Just see it, and all will be revealed to you.

In an 18-member cast with not one weak link, it is still possible to highlight several performances. Dan Murphy (“Man in Chair”) provides the glue that holds it all together, and he is simply hilarious. His childlike wonder (best ever use of a juice box as a prop) belies his absolute control over the audience, and he is surprisingly adept at singing and dancing his way through practically every role in the show. In lieu of intermission, we are treated to a side-splitting 5 minutes of Murphy eating a Power Bar. That’s comedy!

Gretchen Rumbaugh (“The Drowsy Chaperone”) and her paramour, Aldolpho (Norm Wilson) manage to sing and dance their way through roles written way over the top without descending into annoying buffoonery – a fine line when dealing with the clichés of lovelorn lush and Latin Lothario.

Lindsay Michelet (“Janet Van de Graff”) and Joel Walker (“Robert Martin”) anchor the “play within a play” with their on-again, off-again wedding plans. Michelet’s tour de force, “Show Off,” allows her to showcase her vocal and physical agility while giving her ample room to display her chops as a comedienne. Walker and best man “George” (Jacob Chancellor) form a classic song and dance team (think Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor) and their “Cold Feets” number is a real highlight.

Speaking of dance teams, the two gangsters (Samuel Benedict and Sean Powell) earn several of the evening’s best laughs, and their precision dancing is a joy to behold.  Special mention is also due to Sara Catherine Wheatley, whose ditzy “Kitty” is every dumb blonde in show biz history, and to Thomas Slater, the “Underling” who’s the show’s dark horse. Slater’s officious butler/valet/whatever gives us, with his boss Mrs. Tottendale (Emily Beleele), quite simply the best spit-take scene ever.

Lighting, sound, costumes, and scenery work together to create the glamorous feeling of a classic Broadway show and a stereotypical bachelor’s cluttered sanctuary that somehow manage to share the same space.  Every aspect of this production contributes to its magic, and we cannot overstate our enthusiasm.

The Drowsy Chaperone will be performed at the Deb Fennell Auditorium. Preview performance is August 2 with opening night on Friday, August 3, and performances continue through August 19, 2012. Evening performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and on Saturdays, August 11 and 18. The Deb Fennell Auditorium is located at 9000 SW Durham Road in Tigard. Tickets start at $30 for adults, with discounts available for groups and youth. For a full listing of show performances or to order tickets visitwww.broadwayrose.org or call the box office at 503.620.5262.