The Drowsy Chaperone by Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, PA
April 2, 2019
Review submitted by Tommy Christaldi of Sun Valley High School
The Underground Players of Upper Merion Area High School had no issues “showing off” their talent during their production of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone. They delivered not just the promised “mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding!” but much more.
Opening on Broadway in 2006, and winning two Tony awards, including Best Book, The Drowsy Chaperone is the quintessential show-within-a-show. It opens on the nameless Man In Chair, a gloomy agoraphobe, who invites the audience to join him in listening to his favorite record, The Drowsy Chaperone. This send-up of theater tropes plays out in front of him, complete with a score right out of the 1920s, as he narrates the events of his favorite musical.
As the only one in the “real world” for a majority of the show, Justin Halpern’s Man In Chair controlled the rest of the cast. Whenever he pulled up the needle from the record, everyone froze, occasionally for minutes on end as he digressed. The dedication from the ensemble cast in remaining unflinching was excellent. Many other aspects of the show-within-a-show garnered immense laughter, including a record-skip causing the end of a dance to play out repeatedly. Upper Merion was even able to include a treat for returning viewers, as when the Man switched records to begin Act II, he instead put on Urinetown, Upper Merion’s 2018 musical.
Onstage for almost the entire show, Halpern had a large task on his hands, but he pulled it off very well, with near-impeccable comedic timing. He remained engaged in the scene even when uninvolved, dancing along or mouthing dialogue of other characters. Within the show, Carly Rhindress flourished as leading lady Janet Van De Graaff, with a voice reminiscent of a classic showgirl. As the Chaperone, Anna Bobok channeled energy and pizzazz in her rousing anthem, “As We Stumble Along,” complete with a lengthy and unwavering final note.
Daniel Isajiw, playing Janet’s groom-to-be, Robert, brought just the right degree of cheesy to the ridiculous character. As the hilarious Latin lothario Aldolpho, Keagan Richards wielded showy body language and an impressive vocal range. Each other member of the supporting cast, from the ditzy Kitty (Kaci Walter) to the absent-minded Mrs. Tottendale (Molly Levine) and even the witty gangsters (Luke Preston, Grayson Davidock) had their own moments to shine, and each was able to induce rolls of laughter.
Given that the show was playing out in Man In Chair’s imagination, the apartment set, while beautiful and full of small details, was unrelated to the plot-within-the-plot. Therefore, setting was instead created through costumes and makeup. Each character looked as if they were pulled straight out of an era gone by.
The Drowsy Chaperone was an uproarious yet heartfelt production, the perfect cure for any “non-specific sadness!”
Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School
One spin of a record turns the modern-day life straight to the “decadent world of the 1920’s where champagne flowed while caviar chilled.” The Drowsy Chaperone at Upper Merion Area High School filled the air with nostalgia and talent.
The Drowsy Chaperone, written by Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Bob Martin, and Don McKellar, whisks audiences into the world of a fictitious 1920s Broadway musical of the same name. As the Man in Chair recites the stories of his favorite Broadway classic through a playing a record, the musical bursts through his own apartment, with big, flashy numbers and outlandish characters. As the show continues, the comedy within a musical accentuates and becomes a universal show with timeless themes.
The production itself was gorgeous, including all actors and crew. The show was put together, and it was clearly well collaborated between all. Upper Merion did an amazing job incorporating the superb technical aspects with dedicated and committed actors.
The Man In Chair, played by Justin Halpern, used great acting abilities to portray his character. His comedic timing throughout his monologues added to his narratorial presence. Halpern kept the audience laughing and smiling line after line. Portraying the Chaperone, Anna Bobok commanded stage presence and brought the dramatic tipsy character to life. During her huge solo “As We Stumble Along,” Bobok brought the house down with her immense and powerful belt.
Daniel Isajiw and Ryan Slusky, playing Robert and George respectively, created great chemistry on stage, shown through their duet dance number, “Cold Feets.” Another stand-out was Keagan Richards as Aldolpho, who had the audience cracking up. Richards portrayed the Latin heartthrob and king of romance perfectly, making him a joy to watch on stage. Similarly, Carly Rhindress (Janet Van De Graaff) showed off her vocal talent throughout the show. Her voice was show-stopping and had charming energy, fitting the role impeccably.
Another strength of Upper Merion’s production was their sets. The Underground Players Stage Crew effectively built the Man In Chair apartment, which doubled as the set for the musical world. Also, the prop department, led by The Underground Players Stage Crew as well, provided a modern feel and staged special and unique objects throughout the show.
Upper Merion Area High School’s The Drowsy Chaperone was an excellent piece of theatre that helps the audience escape the dreary horrors of the real world.