Friday, 27 March 2015
The Drowsy Chaperone | MTC
Written by Darryl Emmerson   
Sunday, 24 January 2010 09:58

The Drowsy Chaperone | MTCPhotos - Jeff Busby

Bringing with it a raft of recent Broadway awards, and the usual over-the-top New York reviews (inspired! irresistible!! glorious!!!), the MTC’s latest offering, The Drowsy Chaperone, certainly announces itself as some kind of rare and remarkable event. It isn’t, merely a skilled and amusing re-working of some very old conventions. Its cast, band, and staging cannot be faulted, but, in the manner of The Boyfriend, it only brings a world of pastiche, parody and good humour.

In his living room, a musical theatre tragic/obsessive (Geoffrey Rush) drops the needle on an album of a 1920s musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. On the stage we see, the show then comes to life. Basing the show on the recording gives rise to a couple of nice gags; at one point, the needle sticks, so the live performers have to do the same bar over and over. At another, the power goes off and the cast winds down and folds up like a pack of cards.

Geoffrey Rush brings his trademark ease and warmth to his essentially nostalgic role, a character harking back with worn, ironic modern eyes to a supposedly simpler, sunnier time. His fifteen fellow actors are, without exception, skilled and entertaining, and space allows mention only of the ingénues (Alex Rathgreber and Christie Whelan), the frantic best man (Rohan Browne), the absurd Latin lover (Adam Murphy), the producer and his wife (Shane Jacobson and Heidi Arena), and the chaperone herself (Rhonda Burchmore). The tunes are pleasant, without being really memorable, the lyrics smart and singable, but the best moments are probably in the dancing, choreographed by the inventive Andrew Hallsworth. The actors are accompanied throughout by a tight and sympathetic eight-piece band, led by Matthew Frank, Dale Ferguson contributes splendid costumes and set, and the whole thing is directed by Simon Phillips.

A show in this genre does not seek depth, and certainly never achieves it - the glittering surface and incredible performing talents are its sole and saving graces. It will probably succeed, and probably deserves to, but two further comments must be made. It is certainly surprising that, with the writing, performing and production skills the MTC has its disposal, it chooses not to stage an Australian musical (even of half the size). It is, in addition, highly questionable that a major, heavily subsidised company charges almost $100 for a ticket, and for this season has abolished any concession prices whatsoever.

Melbourne Theatre Company presents

Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison | Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar

Venue: the Arts Centre, Playhouse
Dates: 18 January to 27 February 2010 (Season Extended)
Tickets: From $95.00
Bookings: MTC Box Office (03) 8688 0800, | Ticketmaster 1300 723 038 | or 1300 182 183

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Comments (5)

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Jason Stevens
What a load of garbage. This is one of the best musicals to be written in the last 10 years. Urine town..I don't think so. Spring awakening..Bleuggh. Next to Normal..Please!!
At last a musical with real music and a cast that shone, bubbled and snapped on Saturday night.
As to an Australian musical..what???? Dimboola??? give me a break.
Enjoy this for what it is, an homage to the classic form that is American musicals of the 20/30's. It's supposed to be a world of pastiche, parody and good humour. I suppose it doesn't work for you unless it's filled with allegory and sad.
By the way..we hummed the tunes all the way home!!!
Jason Stevens , January 25, 2010
Linda Grinter
The cast were terrific, the comedic timing perfect, and we had a great time. The tap routine! Geoff camping it up, clunkily joining in, hilarious! Ms Nevin, and her "Surprise!" song! ha ha I would highly recommend it!
Linda , January 27, 2010
Olympia Bowman-Derrick
Thank you for your closing words. It is very disappointing that homegrown talent is not nurtured and supported. I would prefer to see an Australian piece of work performed with an Australian accent, no matter the quality, to an American reproduction anyday.

... And the price of the tickets, ridiculous! Theatre should be for everyone, not just for a select few who can afford it. If not for being a reviewer with Australian Stage I would not be able to see the range, variety, and quantity of theatre that I do, and I would not have experienced the great education that the theatre provides.
Olympia Bowman-Derrick , February 02, 2010
Laurel Green
While The Drowsy Chaperone is certainly a parody of the American musical heyday, you may be surprised to learn that it was originally a Canadian production. The show began as a small musical written on the occasion of a friend's wedding and grew into a Toronto Fringe Festival success. With a subsequent remount in Toronto it was just a short jump down to Broadway where it became one of only a few Canadian shows to make a splash - never mind win a Tony award - and Canadian actor Bob Martin led the original New York cast. This touring production was revamped for Aussies, with national big-names in the leading roles. I thought you'd like to know your stages were not being solely occupied by the Yanks, and wonder if a big part of the humour of 'Drowsy' comes as a result of it not being American. That is something Canada and Australia has in common.
Laurel Green , February 03, 2010
Adrian Fernando
What a fantastic production. Contrary to the reviewers opinion, thank goodness that MTC decided to invest money in good entertainment.
Adrian Fernando , February 17, 2010

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