Review: 'Drowsy Chaperone' offers evening of pure enjoyment

Review: 'Drowsy Chaperone' offers evening of pure enjoyment

After a long and challenging work week, I treated myself to a musical comedy, and as I type this, I realize I am still smiling as I recall the highlights (and there were many) from Friday night's selection, a performance of "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the newly renovated Harold and Jean Miner Theatre at Parkland College.

This delightfully clever, Tony Award-winning musical parody (2006) presents a show within a show, following the lead of the asocial "Man in Chair" character, a musical theater fanatic with frequent bouts of melancholy, who turns to his surefire remedy for these situations, his record collection of Broadway scores. As soon as the needle hits the groove on his selection for the evening, the fictitious 1928 production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," the musical erupts into his tiny apartment in all of its over-the-top, jazz-era glory.

As Man in Chair narrates, the story unfolds at the home of the ditzy dowager Mrs. Tottendale, who is hosting the impending nuptials of oil tycoon Robert Martin and adorable show girl, Janet Van de Graaff, who, much to the chagrin of her producer, vows she will give up the spotlight to become a devoted wife. The producer, Feldzieg (an anagram for the great Ziegfeld), up to his neck in financial trouble, has two bumbling goons posing as pastry chefs encouraging him to sabotage the wedding to prevent the loss of their leading lady, so he turns to an irresistible Latin lothario (Aldolpho), and asks him to seduce her away from her bridegroom. Comic devices abound, with mistaken identities, spit takes and pratfalls all employed for your enjoyment.

Unable to control his enthusiasm for his favorite musical, Man in Chair frequently interjects his personal musings, or, when the magic is interrupted by harsh realities, his disdain for life. William Anthony Sebastian Rose is deliciously captivating in this role, from his first line delivery until his final bow.

Under the direction of J.W. Morrissette, this production is pure enjoyment, featuring stunning costumes by talented designer Malia Andrus, clever scenery by Julie Rundell, lively choreography by Jean Korder and fine accompaniment from a capable orchestra under the direction of David Zych.

This production also features top-notch performances by Chelsea Zych as Mrs. Tottendale, Lincoln Machula as "Underling" the water-logged butler, Warren Garver as Robert Martin, Michelle Ogden as Janet Van de Graaff, Alexis DawTyne as the Drowsy Chaperone and the scene-stealing Jace Jamison as Latin lover Adolpho.

Occasional adult humor might make this unsuitable for very young or more sensitive viewers.

Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at

If you go

Title: "The Drowsy Chaperone" by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

Venue: Harold and Jean Miner Theatre at Parkland College, Champaign

Cost: General admission, $16; students and seniors, $14; youths, $10; groups of 15 or more, $12

Performance dates: April 24-25 and May 1-2 at 7:30 p.m. Matinee: 3 p.m. April 26

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, performed without intermission

Topics (1):Theater