Getting to The Drowsy Chaperone at the 2017 Victoria Fringe Festival

St Michael’s University School
3400 Richmond Rd

Sept 1 – 7:00pm
Sept 2 – 2:00pm and 7:00pm

This year’s offering from the St. Michael’s University School Musical Theatre program, The Drowsy Chaperone, owes its debt to appearing in at the Toronto Fringe Festival before getting adapted for a larger audience. To see this comedy return to its roots after a rousing tour and subsequent productions throughout the past decade and a half is always one of the many highlights at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. It is always worth the trip to the municipality of Gordon Head to this school’s auditorium to go see. The production is always tops because the educators at this particular institution ensure the students get the training they deserve and have a fun time while at it. This program cultivates talent and welcomes all youth interested in the performing arts.

This particular show has three performances left, and I feel this show is a must-not-miss for enthusiasts of this genre. This musical comedy was created by Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. They performed it at a stag party for Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf. Their namesakes even appear in this show-within-a-show. This performance looks at the life of a lonely individual (played by William Gao and Eva Kamimura) who looks at his life through the lens of a fictional recording circa 1920’s. This era was when Broadway became very popular and one of the genres that dominated included Ragtime (some swing was also heard too), The Drowsy Chaperone is an album that he so loves, and this narrator sums up the story and injects thoughts (from his life) about this show. This character is gender switched from time to time, as though one incarnation is how this individual is perceived within the musical.

IMG_7740In what makes this show unique this year is a brand new group of students. Some will no doubt return to continue their education in the performing arts. I was told after the show they also got a social studies lesson about the era, so they can not only understand the lingo but also emote the right pathos proper from the era into their performances. They do a great job as I saw behaviours often stereotyped in cinema. I’m sure the grande dame on this story (Janet) is a Mae West type.

I also enjoyed how well they all harmonized together in the larger musical numbers. Standouts include Raine Bierman as “The Butler” and Eva Kamimura as “The Man in the Chair.” I noticed her bright smile throughout the show and it helped make the fantasy performances come alive because she was feeling the joy of experiencing this musical for real. Duke Curran was charming as Aldolpho. I could not help but wonder if he was taking inspiration from Antonio Banderas performance as Puss in Boots (I saw Shrek 2 earlier that day). The comedy was just perfect.

Musical numbers I particularly enjoyed are “Cold Feets,” “I am Aldolpho” and “Love is Always Lovely In the End.” Bits of the narrative strangely reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Fortunately, this show did not have any of these characters meet a dark end. The dialogue at the end from the Man in the Chair also explains why I enjoy this genre too. The music takes you to another world and it lifts your spirits. Other shows do more, and if you’re singing in the rain like I do sometimes, then that’s a good day after all.

4 Blokes out of 5

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