|The Drowsy Chaperone | MTC|
|Written by Darryl Emmerson|
|Sunday, 24 January 2010 09:58|
Photos - 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
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
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