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Review: The Drowsy Chaperone

A delightfully humorous love letter to musicals


The spectacle of the big 1920’s Broadway musical is something that hard to not revel in, though is something which is inevitably a challenge when put on within the constraints of amateur student theatre. Jessi Rogers and Beck Walker are able to successfully rise to this difficulty, creating a rendition of the Drowsy Chaperone which is a musical spectacle, a marvellously camp delight and a technical marvel which is an absolute joy to see on stage.

Telling the story of a man reminiscing over his favourite musical, the Drowsy Chaperone acting as “a musical within a comedy” sees the man in the chair (Benjamin Anderson) listening back to the big budget soundtrack of a cheesy musical which tells the story of famous actress, Vanet Jan de Graff (Neela Nee), having to choose between marrying her true love, Robert (Joseph Lucas), or sticking to a life on the stage. A slightly strange premise to try and put into words, the premise of a musical being ‘seen’ through a jukebox is one which is marvellously utilised by the show, with Anderson’s literal pausing of the record to explain the theatrical history of his favourite show, or seeing him constantly react with glee from the corner of the stage at every one of the big budget numbers. This use of the record format is also wonderfully stuck to by the wider cast, with the cast freezing, or repeating moments as the record skips, selling the premise in a fun and enjoyable manner.

Jude Ashcroft as Adolpho and Isabel Beresford-Cole as the Chaperone

The rest of the cast put on an equally brilliant performance. From Robert and George’s (Elliot Barker) excellent tap dancing, to the ever exasperated producer Feildzig (Haran Loganathan), and the delightfully ditzy Kitty (Harriet Haylock). Also, the brilliant camp eponymous Chaperone (Isabel Beresford Cole), and loud and proud lover extraordinaire Aldolpho (Jude Ashcroft) were wonderful. The entirety of the task is an absolute delight to watch perform, whether they are acting or in full belt. From the absurdly sweet blind rollerskating duet performed by Robert and George, or Aldolpho’s proud declaration of his name and glorious libido. All of this brilliantly choreographed by Gina Stock and Emily Sparkes meaning each number, no matter how many people are on stage, is incredibly fun to watch unfold.

Neela Nee as Janet and Joseph Lucas as Robert

The spectacle of the Drowsy Chaperone is also a delight to see with Angus Cha’s lighting work delightfully complimenting every moment on stage, whilst Grace Heslin’s design for both set, and set pieces being incredibly strong, selling the image of both the big bombastic 20’s musical and the New York apartment the man in the chair is listening to all of this in. Lily Blundell’s musical direction is also a treat to hear, and whilst there are moments where some cast members do get lost in the mix, or can be heard off stage, these are rarities throughout the whole show, one which brilliantly flexes the technical talent of the ADC across the board.

The Drowsy Chaperone is a delightful musical and a clear love letter to the medium. The entire production team is clearly firing on all cylinders and working with an incredibly talented cast. The whole show is very fun to watch, with a great sense of humour running throughout each of its numbers, and a clear sense of adoration for show tunes, bombastic or personal. For musical lovers this is an easy must-see, but even those unfamiliar with the show and going along to check it out will have an excellent time watching a brilliant production company put their best rollerskate-wearing foot forward.

4.5/5