Review: The Drowsy Chaperone (No Strings Theatre)

The Drowsy Chaperone takes to the Toronto stage at the Tarragon Theatre!

Can a group of 12 to 21 year old students enrolled in a four week intensive musical theatre program learn their parts and put on The Drowsy Chaperone in three weeks? Yes! They can! No Strings Theatre’s production, which opened at the Tarragon Theatre on Friday evening, proves it.

I hadn’t seen The Drowsy Chaperone before. It’s a show-within-a-show parody of 1920s fluffy musical comedies; just enough plot to justify a lot of singing, dancing, and a couple of big production numbers.

A man sits in his living room and plays the two record set of the original cast recording of his favourite musical. His living room is transformed into a stage as the cast appears and performs the show. He’s the audience. He can see the cast, but they can’t see him.

He pauses the record quite often to explain why certain parts or performers are significant. Sometimes he gets out of his chair and joins the cast.

When he pauses the record and the actors are on stage, they freeze and hold their poses until he starts the record again. It happened two or three times and it was very impressive seeing the actors holding their poses for what seemed like a long time.

There were two other things that were amazing. At one point, the man was out of his chair on the far side of the stage and the record skipped. The cast kept repeating one tiny segment over and over until he got back to his armchair and turntable to fix the record.

I’m not going to tell you the second one. I have to leave some surprises.

All of the performers and performances were excellent. Even so, there were some standout moments for me.

Tommy Amoroso was perfect as the Person in Chair. He portrayed a world-weary, cynical musical theatre enthusiast perfectly, reminding me a bit of Niles in Frasier. Sometimes he was hunched in his chair, other times he was acting out the scene or chair-dancing and singing along. Wonderful.

The Person in the Chair described the actress playing the Chaperone as a star who was known for singing ‘anthems’ and had it written into her contract that she would sing one in every show she was in whether it made sense or not.

Sabrina Weinstein played the Chaperone and was wonderful as she sang the ‘anthem’ As We Stumble Along. She emoted, she strutted, she wrapped her scarf around herself, and her voice soared. She made me think of dramatic women singers like Judy Garland or Edith Piaf. You just know she’s not going to have a happy ending.

Alastair Sherbin who played the groom, Robert, is very tall and thin. The image of him blindfolded on roller blades, windmilling his arms might stay with me forever. I can’t even remember the scene. All I can see is him in the background, arms twirling.

The only negative thing about Friday’s show had nothing to do with the performers and must have been frustrating for them as well as for the audience. The sound system was not their friend. It would sporadically blast the action. Hopefully, that’ll be fixed before the next performance.

Other than that, it was lovely.

Every now and again throughout the show, I had to remind myself that these were very young people, students, who had pulled this together in three weeks. There was so much impressive talent on the stage, it bodes well for the future of musical theatre in Toronto.

It’s a fun show and family friendly. It runs for two hours though, so I wouldn’t take young children or kids whose attention span isn’t up to it. Other than that, go see The Drowsy Chaperone and have fun.

Details:

  • The Drowsy Chaperone is playing until July 30 at the Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave)
  • Show times are 8PM July 29 and 30, 2PM July 29
  • Ticket prices are $32.00 for adults, $25 for seniors and student, and $15.00 for Children
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-531-1827, and at the box office

Photo of the cast by Greg King

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