Weddings can be chaotic enough, but throw in gangsters, musical numbers, a drunken (or drowsy) chaperone and put it all inside a musical within a play, and the end result is Lafayette Society for Performing Arts’ upcoming satirical show “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
The production is “a comedy disguised as a musical,” said director Valerie Longshore-Sargent. The story is framed around the narrator, called simply Man in Chair, who Longshore-Sargent describes as a modern lover of old musical theater, but “with an old soul.”
In his love for the heyday of musical theater, the 1920s, Man in Chair plays the vinyl record of his favorite, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” for the audience. As it plays, the actors appear in his apartment - an illustration of his imagination - and he shares a one-sided rapport with the audience, giving his personal impressions, thoughts and trivial background information throughout.
The musical centers around the wedding of Robert Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. Martin is a tycoon while Van De Graaf has been the star of a successful follies show on Broadway, but plans to leave as she begins her married life. Her producer, Feldzig, hopes to keep her from leaving the show and circumstances become more complicated when gangsters show up and reveal that their boss is an investor in the show, and convince him to sabotage the wedding to keep its star in place.
The titular Drowsy Chaperone, played by Jena Pitts, is tasked by high-strung best man George to keep the loving couple apart. However, as schemes to test their love develop, events begin to spiral out of control.
Sam Bolar, an upcoming Harris County High School junior, plays Man in Chair, narrator of the show. He describes the character as someone who has lost a lot in life, including his family, and is depressed, drawing inward where listening to and narrating his favorite record “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a way to enjoy life.
While Bolar said he shares with the character a love of theater, he’s very different than the agoraphobic Man in Chair - outgoing, energetic and expressive. However, he feels that there is a bit of Man in Chair that everyone can relate to - having something that is important to him and he cherishes and wants to share with everyone.
Madison Finney is an upcoming Harris County High School junior who serves as choreographer for the show. She also plays the role of Janet Van De Graaff, who she describes as “a very fun character.” The bride-to-be constantly creates conflict, both with her fiance and her producer. Although Finney says that, unlike Janet, she tries to lessen conflict in her life, she can relate to the character’s outgoing personality and passion for life.
Malcolm Stephen, an upcoming LaGrange High School senior, plays Aldolpho, a self-described ladies man. A potential wild card thrown into the marriage plan, Stephen describes Adolpho as all confidence, swagger and ego. While Stephen admits that he tends to be self-confident, portraying Aldolpho is like “throwing everything my parents taught me out the door,” becoming completely shallow and self-absorbed.
Brian Green, in his third LSPA performance, plays George, the stressed-out best man at the wedding, who’s in constant panic mode trying to ensure everything goes off without a hitch as extreme situations keep arising. Green admits that the character is a stretch for him, describing his personality as more laid back and carefree, but he draws upon past experiences and people he’s known to get into character.
Kelly Rainer, a second-year drama teacher at Long Cane Middle School, plays hostess Mrs. Tottendale, a woman in her 50s that Rainer describes as “thinking she knows everything and has everything all together, but really she’s just weird and spacey.” She joked that the character probably is an exaggerated version of how she will be in her 50s, but added that Tottendale is usually in her own world with her own rules, while Rainer is more regimented.
Longshore-Sargent said the ensemble show should be a fun way to end the summer break.
“For the summer show I always try to find something fun and upbeat, and I think something like this - it’s the end of summer and people are looking to enjoy these last little moments of summer break,” she said. “So I look for a fun show that uses as many students as possible.”
Students from LaGrange, Troup and Harris County high schools are all part of the production, something Longshore-Sargent, a musical theater teacher at Harris County High School and 12-year veteran of LSPA, is used to. However, the cast is not exclusively students, and there are a few seasoned players as well.
“People should definitely come to have a good time, especially with the picnic theater,” Longshore-Sargent said. “They can relax and find themselves laughing, it’s a well-spent evening for everyone and a lot of fun.”
Stephen described the play as “just entertaining,” and offering a variety of characters that people can relate to. The character’s differences, yet the way they can connect to the audience and each other will be what makes it enjoyable to watch, agreed Green, who added that “LSPA always raises the bar.”
Rainer said the appeal of the play is how the audience can related to the characters’ issues, which are initially underneath the surface.
“They’re not all so pretty, there are a lot of issues going on,” she said. “These are different issues that people have and the show makes fun of it … It lets the audience be able to escape (their issues) and be light-hearted about it.”
She added that she would love to have her drama students see the play and variety of characters, their differences and how they relate.
Bolar said the play simply is fun and enjoyable for the audience.
“It’s really just a funny, light-hearted, good show,” he said. “It’s not going to weigh you down afterwards; it’s just meant to make you laugh and have a good time. That’s what it does.”
Finney said she is “completely obsessed with this show.” She said it’s great fun and will make people laugh, but there is more to it.
“It embodies human nature in so many different ways,” she said. “When you go in, you’re not really expecting to understand what Man in Chair is saying, but slowly as the show progresses from being just this light-hearted comedy, slowly you realize it’s not just a funny show show that’s over-dramatic and makes you laugh. It’s something deeper than that. … Everyone walks away with a different perspective and a different take from the show.”