There’s nothing ‘Drowsy’ about the Goshen Playhouse’s ‘Chaperone’
Goshen Playhouse, Goshen: This is the perfect time of year to head to Goshen. It’s a beautiful country ride just north of Torrington. The foliage is breathtaking and the bonus is a great theater production. You’ll love the comfort of the cabaret-style seating.
If ever there was a production with a misnomer for its title, it is “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Goshen Players theater. From the second the show opens to the final curtain, this musical comedy never quits exciting the audience. Under the inspired direction of Ed Bassett, who happens to be the artistic director of the Phoenix Stage Company, this production awakens all the singing, dancing and humor that a cast of triple threats can only dream of.
The title gets its name from the main character simply called “Man in Chair,” typically played by a mature actor who reminisces about the golden age of theater, specifically in 1928 in a play titled “The Drowsy Chaperone.” However, this “Man in Chair” is no ordinary man, especially when it is played by Tim Phillips, who steps into the production with a bright star hanging over his commanding performance. He’s so expressive that you start imagining what he imagines as he recalls his favorite musical and beloved actors. He knows everything about the performers and as he places an old recording of that musical on his old static-rendering record player, the actors spill onto the set in his vivid remembrance and to the audience’s real delight.
What is so clever about this show is that it takes place in the memories of “Man in Chair,” who frequently moves from imagining a cast that pours out onto the stage, to the reality of answering telephone calls and providing historic background on each of the actors. It’s a complicated piece that often ends up a sleeper with a less talented cast and less creative director. Happily this production is of the liveliest category. There’s never a dull moment with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Bob Martin and Don Kellar.
Jim Luurtsema is the maestro with the “mostest” as he conducts a spot on orchestra and pit choir, while choreographer Peggy Terhune transformed the cast into a dancing dream. This review could fill a book with accolades for the creative crew as well as for each member of this super-talented cast.
The storyline focuses on a star who decides to leave her career for the man she loves and is about to marry. Her producer will resort to anything to prevent the wedding. Add to this a couple of gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, a chaperone who ignores the prohibition, a Latin lover and other vividly colorful characters.
Playing their roles with equal amounts of talent and passion are Martha Irving as the in-demand star of the follies who is about to marry; Alex Polzun as a tap dancing phenomenon and best man to love struck groom-to-be played by Austin Tewksbury. Cheyenne Walent plays the drowsy chaperone with amazing vocal prowess and voice that fills the theater; Emily Diedrich as the wannabe a star and Stephanie Varanelli as another vocalist both have a great set of pipes.
As for outstanding comic roles, you would be hard pressed to find another as funny as Chuck Stango, whose reputation is further enhanced here as the Latin lover. Jane Coughlin plays the airhead host of the wedding. Roger Grace as Underling, an ultra sophisticated butler, proves that being an understated straight man can be as hilarious as the clown. Steve Sorriero is the threatened producer and Dave Nichols and James Wood play the gangsters posing the threat.
All of the actors on stage are more than triple threats. Their characterizations are pretty much flawless. Add to this that the set is as attractive as it is inventive. Where else than in someone’s imagination can a character enter the stage through a refrigerator? Kate Luurtsema’s costume designs are picture perfect and sound engineers Josh Lopez, Shea Lopez and Jeanine Pray never miss a cue. Lighting designer Jen Gleason accents the stage brilliantly.
This is a fabulous production that will undoubtedly sell out. It’s playing through Nov. 3; call for tickets at 860-491-9988
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.