It’s full of double meanings, innuendos, and the constant breaking of the fourth wall. And anyone who is anyone in the Northwestern community saw it this weekend. No, you didn’t miss an advance screening of Deadpool. But you might have missed the Jewish Theater Ensemble production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
The director, Emma Wahl, saw the musical in New York years ago, and it's the chance of a lifetime to be heading it at Northwestern. Wahl, a School of Communications junior, explained that what separates The Drowsy Chaperone from other musicals is its broad appeal.
In contrast to Wahl, the artistic producer, Weinberg junior Bailey Sutton, had no idea that The Drowsy Chaperone even existed when she was selected to be a producer. The unfamiliarity didn’t deter from Sutton’s excitement, and she eventually learned the ins and outs of the show. Both were adamant in their assertion that they wanted to challenge themselves with this production.
The first challenge was selecting the cast. For Wahl and Sutton, casting is the most important part to a show.
“I wanted energetic people who were strong comedic actors,” Wahl said.
The Drowsy Chaperone is a show that builds in energy as it goes along. The story opens on a neurotic man, played by School of Communication senior Russell Kahn, ranting about theatre in his apartment and deciding to play the audience one of his favorite records, The Drowsy Chaperone. From here, his apartment literally expands to house the 1920s musical.
The opening number, introducing twelve new characters in rapid succession, is a bit lackluster, but the show quickly picks up in pace as each of the characters are given time to develop and relax into their archetypes. The individual actors in the show are all incredibly talented. They deliver show-stopping moments at every turn, and while they never fully transform into a cohesive ensemble, there are no weak links. The energy picks up as the show continues, partially due to the rapid-fire line delivery and partially due to the cast settling into a show that is essentially fragmented scenes and commentary.
Gangster #1 as well as Gangster #2 provided an energetic feel the moment they stepped foot on the stage. Their performance of “Toledo Surprise” was both foolish and endearing. School of Communications sophomore Chris Flaim, who plays the role of Gangster #1, felt comfortable almost immediately as the casting process began.
“I trusted everyone in that room,” the sophomore said.
Alex Quiñones, who played Aldolpho onstage, added that what makes The Drowsy Chaperone is its trueness to itself.
“It doesn’t try to be anything else than what it is,” said the sophomore.
The jokes and double entendres kept laughter going throughout the show. There are also some really heartfelt moments interspersed between the funny quips. When a show like Drowsy comes along, Flaim believes it provides some happiness and fun in a sea of Northwestern theater that can often be heavy and quite depressing.
And as the Man in Chair said in his opening monologue, “That’s what this show is. Fun.”
When the show succeeds, it succeeds big. There are some inspired artistic choices related to the entrances of the characters and the usage of space. If there is any weakness in the show, it comes from an overfamiliarity with the source material. However, this just means that the show has extra layers for a repeat viewing. The Drowsy Chaperone is very funny, but also incredibly heartfelt, and overall a very enjoyable experience.