"Toledo Surprise" in Ryle's production of 'Drowsy Chaperone.'
Eric Harrell as The Man in the Chair brought the show to life in Ryle's 'Drowsy Chaperone.'
Everyone needs a way to escape the monotony of everyday life—be it work, school or the trials of being a lonely man obsessed with musicals. Both the audience and the performers found this release in Larry A. Ryle High School’s entertaining production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
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The musical, written by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, started as a spoof of old Broadway musicals, eventually morphing into the zany tale of a middle age man who shares his favorite musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” with the audience. As the Man in Chair narrates and comments on his recording, the show-within-a-show grows increasingly fantastic and ridiculous. After opening on Broadway in 2006, this musical won the Tony Award for Best Book and Best Score.
The ensemble kept up with the fast pacing of the show effortlessly, responding sharply to the other actors and their cues. The tap dancing was impressive and energetic, and the vocals were full and spirited. The cast also handled the well-timed record skipping sequences with ease and clarity.
Eric Harrell shone as the Man in Chair, remaining in character throughout the entire production as he tapped his feet, mouthed the lyrics and provided a slightly neurotic commentary on his favorite musical. Taylor McCord, who played Janet Van De Graaff, displayed remarkable vocal abilities and charmed those on stage and in the audience alike with her diva antics. Kiefer Richardson’s dancing skills and vocal talents brought sweet charm to Robert Martin, the somewhat naïve oil tycoon who falls in love with Janet. The Drowsy Chaperone herself was played by Abby Palen, whose hilarious grimaces, wide eyes and delightfully crude comments brought the aging Broadway star to life.
Jacob O’Brien was entertaining as Aldolpho the Spanish womanizer, whose consistent accent and flamboyant flourishes conveyed the outrageous situation. Kitty was played by Madison Borland, whose squeals and optimistic excitement brought energy to the stage. Ben Donaldson and Carson Trego demonstrated excellent timing throughout their quick back-and-forth exchanges as gangsters-turned-pastry-chefs, and kept the audience laughing with their comedic explanation of how to make Toledo Surprise.
The production excelled technically as well, especially the makeup by Valerie King, which was appropriate to both the characters and the time period. The cast handled microphone problems with poise, remaining in character and maintaining consistently high energy.
While the Man in Chair became a part of the fantastic production taking place in his living room, the audience was also drawn in to Ryle High School’s The Drowsy Chaperone, a lively and amusing jaunt that demonstrated the importance of both laughter and theater.