REVIEW: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Bridewell Theatre) ★★★★

The Drowsey ChaperoneDespite having won five Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 2006, The Drowsy Chaperone remains relatively ignored or unheard of by theatregoers. A hilarious 1920s romp complete with romantic mix-ups, fantastic caricatures and a soundtrack that will have you positively bouncing in your seat, what more could you wish for? Thankfully, Sedos theatre company is here to shake things up. Jump-starting this hidden gem and soaring around the Bridewell Theatre in a flurry of high-kicking, toe-tapping irreverence, this show is sure to put a smile on any audience’s faces.

In a cosy apartment, a man sits in a chair in a state of indeterminate melancholy. Hoping to lift his spirits, he invites us to listen to his favourite Broadway soundtrack, that of The Drowsy Chaperone. As he swoons in the sumptuous melodies of the show’s overture, the characters from the musical come to life, invading the room and performing the full production. Wealthy oil tycoon Robert Martin is about to be married to Broadway sensation Janet Van De Graaff. Choosing to give up the life of celebrity to pursue a quiet marriage with her love, Janet readily stows herself away in the bridal suite, accompanied by her ‘drowsy’ Chaperone. Feldzieg of ‘Feldzieg’s Follies’ concocts a plan to persuade her to forego the wedding and return to showbiz while Kitty, a former chorus girl tries to nab his attention and take Janet’s place centre-stage. Feldzieg enlists the help of self-proclaimed King of Romance Aldolpho to seduce Janet and ruin the wedding…

This production of The Drowsy Chaperone really is a joy to behold. Each of the cast members is incredibly talented, delivering Laura de Iongh’s spotless choreography which sees them whirling and bounding with clockwork timing and the band, led by Adrian Hau, enriches the experience with music that bursts and swells around the auditorium. The harmonies are well executed and when the full cast sings together, the sound that surges from the stage is rich and enchanting.

Our leading man Alex Baker, in the narrative role of Man in Chair, is quite frankly superb. His throwaway lines and self-effacing mannerisms are so beautifully considered that it becomes impossible not to grin every time he addresses us from the sidelines as the story unfolds. In the titular role of the Chaperone, Vicky Terry displays a confident command of the stage paired with a booming vocal range and fantastic comic timing. Raking in the laughs, Kevin Murray’s Aldolpho shines. His heightened expressions are perfectly suited to the tone of the piece and keep the pace galloping forward. A special mention must be made for Corin Miller who, as Janet, executes the show’s most recognised number ‘Show Off’ with enviable prowess. Her warm, brassy voice tackles every note with ease, never faltering despite jumping, kicking and sliding into the splits throughout the number. The combination of the apartment setting and the imagined performance of the musical works wonderfully. Through razor sharp tableaux and careful scripting, Man in Chair injects his thoughts and opinions throughout the production which keeps our attention and adds brief, subtle snippets of comedy.

Taking the heightened glamour and big-band musical style of the 1920s and mixing in one man’s obsession with a somewhat neglected show, The Drowsy Chaperone is a real treat. The perfect form of escapism, it is delightfully silly and filled with laugh out loud humour. With just a week before the run finishes, get yourself down to the Bridewell Theatre as soon as possible!

Reviewed by Alex Foott
Photo: Adrian Hau