By Liam Shand Egan
North Shore Theatre Company’s ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ opened on Wednesday. The prestige of this show, with Tony Awards in both Best Book and Best Original Score, is no small hurdle for any theatre company to overcome, even if they are one of the oldest in Sydney. The show is both a celebration and a commentary on 1920s Broadway, the kind that some audiences might cringe at today. Coming in blind to this show, I was primed for that experience but left happy I got a chance to see this musical-within-a-musical.
The fourth wall doesn’t exist during the show in a traditional sense. Instead, the character of ‘Man in Chair’ (played by David Verdejo) acts like pop-up trivia for the world in which this musical exists. Verdejo’s performance was one of the most endearing things I’ve seen in a while, with him hooking us with laughter and then concluding the show with a really touching performance that will relate to anyone who knows that a thing they love is a bit cringe-y. His comedic timing is perfect whether fighting a feather boa or accidentally destroying props and his performance provides a necessary catharsis during the ‘classic broadway’ moments.
The cast of ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ (the fictional musical the ‘Man in Chair’ puts on) has a really interesting problem: not only do they have to perform, but they also have to perform the way the actors in Drowsy’s world would act. This is well-executed giving some really good meta-jokes from various cast members. Andrea van den Bol and Alisia Jedrzejczak as the two female leads were outstanding with comedic timing and vocal talent that left me wanting more. All the actors delivered on the comedy with Luke Baweja’s European lothario Adolpho chewing the scenery so well I’m surprised it didn’t all fall apart and Michael Mulvenna’s Feldzeig providing any song he is featured in with oomph. Benjamin Lea playing the bridegroom Robert Martin was incredibly endearing but his vocals left me a bit unsatisfied until paired with Zan Cross playing his best man. A real surprise for me was Chloe Horne as ‘Trix the Aviatrix’ whose vocals made her appearance my favourite part of the show.
The set design for the show (thanks to Alan Roy) was perfect for a lover of theatre with little easter eggs throughout that made the space feel lived in without distracting from the beautiful costumes. I appreciate a good waistcoat and this show provides that and more thanks to James Warner and Beth Pilley. The design team for this production seemed to be firing on all cylinders so congratulations to them and the director Kelly Horrigan on a job well done.
However, there were some issues that distracted from all the wonderful elements I’ve listed. However brief there were moments when the sound mixing would cut out, leaving the cast performing almost acapella. There was also a lack of coordination during the song ‘Cold Feet’ - the cast tap-dancing on stage was out of sync with the band. However, these moments feel like freak accidents that, while distracting at the time, should not affect the show beyond that night.
I haven’t seen community theatre in a long time. A really long time. So long that I forgot how much talent exists in this city and it made me really excited to see more of it. This show feels like a love letter to musicals and why we love the things we love. Huge congratulations to all involved and I encourage you to go see The Drowse Chaperone during the remainder of their run.
Image Credit: Alan Roy
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.