The Martin/McKellar book, DROWSY CHAPERONE, musicalized by Lambert and Morrison for the Toronto Fringe is a Cinderella Story; i.e. from humble beginnings to the pinnacle. Mississauga’s CITY CENTRE MUSIC PRODUCTIONS adds another aspect to this decidedly popular bit of fluff…meticulous direction.
In keeping with the children’s fables motif – CCMP & Michael MacLennan put on a ‘Goldilocks’ effort…it’s “not too anything…it’s Just Right!”
MacLennan’s exceptional attention to even the smallest of details manifests in what is a highly polished faultless presentation. For a critic to evangelize any play wherein the heroine replies to a subordinate’s correction about Romeo and Juliet being a tragedy by emphatically stating “I never read reviews” goes against our collective grain, but the rest of the play redeems this blasphemy.
The plot deals with a somewhat dweebish type putting on an old record and then having the original characters appear & perform in his apartment. Star wants to quit Broadway and get married; producer stands to lose by her decision, so attempts to kill her marital intentions. Tradition and mores require the engaged couple to be separated until wed; the bride-to-be chaperoned. Will love overcome obstacles??? See the show! By asides to the audience with historical trivia about the recording’s 1920’s personas; then and now, the original creation was expanded and tweaked upwards. This iteration is gem-like: – from production to presentation.
Our reluctant star is Janet, and Alana Bostock gives a full measure interpretation. Her disclaiming number ‘Show Off’ enables not only Janet, but the rest of the cast to show off their talents in a Busby Berkeley parody. The bit where she passes herself as a passionate French girl is nth degree comedy. Her foil (& fiancé) Robert, is played by Ryan Jeffrey and his voice is an aural delight. He acts up a storm plus is a dynamo on those roller-skates. There are three powerful support renderings. Brian Wray’s “underling” paraphrases every patronized servant, especially ‘Benson’ of TV fame. He has some of the play’s best lines. Chris Stolz’s “Adolpho” the Don Juan-ish type, is a super greasy Elvis but with a ridiculous accent. The title role is portrayed by Jo Kemp and she once again illustrates her wide range of impersonation. We’ve seen her in Blood Brothers, Sweeney Todd, and now a tipsy; up-staging dame – decades beyond her ‘best before date”. Quite a talent, the lady should turn professional.
The hinge-pin role is that of ‘man-in-chair’, the narrating liaison between audience and on-stage activity. David Grimason is physically, facially and theatrically-perfect bit of audition choice. We know he’s really what he pretends to be on stage. His timing; eye focus, and stance all mirror the intended imagery.
The music, recorded and large orchestra are a little overpowering; the head-mikes need some tweaking, and a few tiny wardrobe glitches will no doubt be corrected by the director and company for opening night.
CCMP and MacLennan did an amazing, superlative job on their 2009 ‘South Pacific’… DROWSY CHAPERONE certainly looks to be another winner. It will be at Meadowvale Theatre until the Sunday matinee on Apr. 1st