Peoria Players Theater closes out their regular 2010-2011 season with the regional premiere of "The Drowsy Chaperone".
This play within a play is one of my current favorites. It is a brilliant musical for people who love musicals.
The entire play takes place in the apartment of the nameless Man In Chair. This is a character with whom it is easy for me to identify, having spent many nights in my life remedying "the blues" by losing myself in a Broadway cast album.
I am fortunate to have seen this show professionally, once with Georgia Engel, who originated the role of Mrs. Tottendale on Broadway.
Having such a fondness for the show, I was somewhat nervous to see it undertaken by a local amateur group.
Well, I am pleased to say that not only does Peoria Players rise to the occasion, they knock this one completely out of the park!
Under Mike Ream's flawless direction, the cast delivers a wonderful and memorable evening that will take you back to the glorious days of the Busby Berkeley-style musicals.
As the curtain rises we meet Man In Chair, who is feeling somewhat blue and decides to spend the evening listening to one of his favorite cast albums, a 1920's musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone".
As he listens, the musical comes alive in his living room.
This play within the play is about a wedding hosted at the home of Mrs. Tottendale, a ditzy and eccentric woman with her servant Underling always in tow.
The bride is Broadway star, Janet Van De Graaf, who is at the peak of her career yet ready to give it all up to marry Robert Martin, the wealthy son of an oil baron.
Janet's producer is on hand to try to stop the wedding and keep his revenue-producing star.
The extensive cast also includes a pair of mobsters posing as pastry chefs, a shrill chorus girl who wants to replace Janet, best man George, Latin Lothario Adolfo, and of course the chaperone accompanying the bride.
The Chaperone loves her drink, even though it tends to make her "drowsy".
The plot soon becomes complicated and involved, moved along by some of the most clever and delightful songs you are likely to hear.
The cast here is uniformly good.
Nate Downs is quite simply perfect as Man In Chair.
Molly Smith wows as Janet. She sings, dances. juggles, does cartwheels, and generally "shows off" in this role. That signature number is worth the ticket price in itself.
Not to be out done, Jacob Hazzard as her groom, also sings, dances, and even roller skates blindfolded!
Barb Couri perfectly captures the essence of the title character. Her rendition of "As We Stumble Along" is wonderful.
Also delightful is Jim Willard as Underling. His deadpan performance is a comedic classic.
Steve Bartolotti wrings every bit of comedy out of his larger than life portrayal of Aldolpho. His performance is as good as I have seen in this role.
Katie McLuckie as Kitty and Matt Stubbs and Robert Pugh as the Tall Brothers are all great, as is Dave Montague as George.
Kudos to Mr.Reams and the entire cast for ending their season with such a bang.
I will go as far as to say that "The Drowsy Chaperone" is the best show that I have seen on the Players' stage in ...well, ever.
In the end, this show "does what a musical is supposed to do. It takes you to another world and it gives you a little tune to carry in your head when you're feeling blue..."
The show runs this weekend and next (through May 15th) at the theater in Lakeview Park.
DO NOT MISS THIS!