Musicals. When done right, these productions turn out to be some of the most memorable onstage performances of all-time.
Mix in comedy with catchy tunes and a memorable story, and it’s easy to see why shows like Wicked and The Book of Mormon are receiving widespread critical acclaim across the country. I had never seen The Drowsy Chaperone and knew almost nothing about it, but it’s safe to say that this is one of the best productions that Missouri Western has put on in quite some time.
You’re greeted by a man in his apartment, sitting on a chair. The fourth wall is immediately shattered as he speaks to the audience; treating them almost as if they are a group of his peers, hanging on his every word. He explains that, when he is feeling blue and tired of the real world, he likes to escape with Broadway musicals; his favorite being The Drowsy Chaperone. The man tells the audience that this particular record is a delight, and promptly places it onto the player. From there, his living room is transformed into a large stage where the actors perform as the man relaxes on his chair. The man constantly provides commentary of events and actors, often stopping the record (and the actors on stage) to do so.
I’d like to give more examples of the many different narration and comedy techniques that are present in The Drowsy Chaperone due to its “show within a show” style, but they’re best experienced in Potter Theatre. I will say that this particular musical plays with lighting and music in very unique and hilarious ways.
And speaking of music, The Drowsy Chaperone is absolutely chockfull of memorable songs. Furthermore, the choreography with some of the dance numbers was absolutely delightful, and reminded me so much of that special Broadway flair that The Drowsy Chaperone invokes time and time again. Everything sounded absolutely fantastic, and the instrumentation was spot on. The singing, the dancing and especially the jazzy tunes played in the orchestra pit all came together magnificently.
Then there’s the comedy. The Drowsy Chaperone, the play that is being listened to by the audience and the man in the chair who are presumably in the present day, takes place in the 1920s. Therefore, I expected the comedy to be very suited to that time period and maybe even a bit dull. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Drowsy Chaperone is very modern when it comes to its comedy, not only from the man in the chair, but from those actors performing the actual play that took place all those years ago. Furthermore, The Drowsy Chaperone isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, the genre and even a few stereotypes. The dialogue is witty, clever and almost always hilarious.
Now is when I’d focus on a particular actor who stole the show or had a standout performance that I felt defined the overall performance, but the fact of the matter is that everyone who took part in The Drowsy Chaperone did an altogether fantastic job. Each of the major characters in The Drowsy Chaperone is given their own unique moments to shine, and shine they do. Everyone is hilarious, charming and altogether wonderful at portraying their respective roles. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and their ability to instill that Broadway energy into nearly every scene, especially when the talented background singers join in, is an absolute delight.
I could sing the praises of The Drowsy Chaperone all day, but this is one musical that you need to experience for yourself. It’s one of those shows that’s just plain fun while still providing a deeper meaning for audiences to ponder once it’s over. Make no mistake; this is one of Missouri Western’s most entertaining musicals to date.