The lights dim down and you are left in a dark room, listening to the beginning of the Man in Chair as he guides his reader into the wonderful world of musical theater and the joy it brings him, specifically his favorite piece, the Drowsy Chaperone. Many say actions speak louder than words, and as the Man in Chair narrates the recording, we see the story develop onstage. As Larry A. Ryle High School’s production of the Drowsy Chaperone unraveled, the audience witnessed the overlap between reality and “fiction” that theater brings.
A large part of this play was driven by the natural acting. Nailing a part like the Man in Chair can be difficult to do with monologues after monologues explaining the setting of the scene the audience is about to watch. It can get boring. However, senior Eric Harrell as the Man in Chair was successfully able to make himself into a dynamic character. His ability to not only act in the moment but use the space around him and make bold choices allowed for an audience connection to him as if he really was an old friend telling a story.
But such talent wasn’t just limited to Harrell. In other ways, actors were able to embody their characters to push the show to a whole other degree of comedy. Among these were the two gangster bakers (Ben Donaldson and Carson Trego) who had the audience laughing whenever they were on stage. Their cohesiveness played a huge part in making their relationship memorable. Jacob O’Brien as Aldolpho, the self-acclaimed ladies’ man, brought a large amount of energy to the stage. His clumsiness and vain personality was perfectly captured and reflected by the actor.
Similarly, The Drowsy Chaperone (Abby Palen) was a character that stood out the most. Palen’s unique down-to-earth attitude differenced her from the love-struck couples on stage. Exemplified by her solo songs such as “Stumble Along,” the Drowsy Chaperone was a laid back character that was still able to give profound advice that resonated beyond the main character and to the audience. Performing this way without becoming too stiff can be a difficult, but this production took a fresh interpretation and ran with it.
All of this including the confident movements of George (Brennen Alm), the warming vocals of Trix the Aviatrix (Jordyn Nelson) and amazing ability of all the actors to freeze in scenes and ignore the Man in Chair as he walks around, made this production amazing. The technical aspects including the various props (such as the snake in the basket) and the rightly timed sound cues were a huge factor in the success of the show.
The deep-rooted messages behind the play were thoroughly laid out for the audience members to grab and digest, with no moment of confusion or misunderstanding. With smooth transitions and the ability to articulate the lines properly, the actors were able to overcome obstacles that typically may make performing a musical-within-a-musical such as this hard to do.