"The Drowsy Chaperone," a new musical just off Broadway, hit the Seabury Hall stage last weekend. Opening night was not the first time I saw the show - as the stage manager, I had been at rehearsals from the beginning, making calls, taking notes and prompting actors on their lines. Still, as I sat in the tech booth on Friday evening, waiting to dim the lights, I felt as excited as if I were about to see a brand-new musical.
Of course, in a sense, the opening night of a high school production is a brand-new show, not just to audiences, but also to the director, to the production crew and especially to the actors themselves. The energy emanating from the audience combines with the actors' nervous excitement to push the show to a whole new level. The transformation is instantaneous and happens live onstage, right before the audience's eyes.
Opening night was all the more exciting because I have grown to love this quirky show so much. "The Drowsy Chaperone" is a new musical masquerading as an old '20s musical. An awkward but endearing theater-buff (Ryan Walsh) invites the audience into his living room to listen to a recording of his favorite old Broadway musical. As the music swells, the characters burst to life through his living room walls.
Greg Saydah plays the sensible and sarcastic butler, Underling, in Seabury’s “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Eric Rolph photo
After the show, I spoke with two audience members, Mitch Bradley (full disclosure: my father) and Larry Feinberg, both regular patrons of theater on Maui, to hear their impressions of the production. Bradley said, "It was a real treat . . . I laughed the whole time, to the point of tears."
One of the fun things about this production is that it does not have one star - but 12. A dozen Seabury students showed off their unique talents in leading roles.
Sydney Roberts played the glamorous Janet Van De Graaff, a vaudeville star who plans to get married and leave show business. Playing the role of Janet takes a lot of talent, not to mention guts. She has to perform tricky choreography and acrobatic stunts while singing some of most challenging music in the show, and to top it all off, she has to make it look easy. It was exciting to watch Roberts gain the confidence she needed to belt out those high notes. When I mentioned Roberts, Feinberg exclaimed, "Loved her! Her presence, her singing . . . she was fabulous. She really just took hold of the stage."
"The Drowsy Chaperone" opened last Friday and runs the next two weekends: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Seabury Hall Performance Studio. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and $7 for students. Call 573-1257 for reservations and information.
Clyde Engle played the dashing groom, Robert Martin, with a dazzling, exaggerated smile and some fun and energetic dance numbers. Bradley said, "Clyde continues to impress me as an actor and a singer." Feinberg agreed, adding, "His dance routines were terrific! It was a pleasure to watch him."
Fern Young, in the title role of the Drowsy Chaperone, "had a lovely vocal tone," said Bradley. Though Young has been singing for years, this was her first time playing a major role onstage. Though a little hesitant when we first started rehearsal, Young gradually let go of her inhibitions. By opening night she had taken ownership of her delightfully eccentric role.
Miles Kelsey was Aldolpho, the dim-witted Spaniard and self-styled "King of Romance." "Of course he stole the show," said Feinberg. Playing the buffoon is nothing new to Kelsey, who recently starred as the egotistical poser Trissotan in Seabury's production of "Learned Ladies." Bradley told me, "Miles' flair for physical comedy is growing with every role . . . his pratfalls had me in stitches."
Mrs. Tottendale (Deni Harrelson) was the ditsy hostess who relied completely on her sensible though sarcastic butler, Underling (Gregory Saydah). Harrelson has performed in several acting roles at Seabury, including Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet," but Mrs. Tottendale was her first singing role. I am sure that singing onstage for the first time was nerve-wracking, but Harrelson's poise never wavered. Bradley said, "Denni is physically engaging . . . she just looks good onstage."
Saydah, who also played a butler in "Learned Ladies," has had plenty of practice playing the long-suffering employee of a privileged airhead. Bradley said, "Gregory plays the butler to a tee . . . he has a grounding effect onstage."
Ryan Glavor was Feldzieg, Janet's harried producer. "Ryan is a solid actor," said Bradley. Bradley called Kelsey Greenway "perfect" in the role of Kitty, a dumb chorus girl determined to be a leading lady.
Scarlett Engle and Kara Termulo played an amusing gangster duo posing as a couple of pastry chefs; David Hafer played Robert's excitable best man George; Celina Bekins played Trix the Aviatrix; and Brendan Wilson played the superintendent.
Kathryn Adler, Katherine Barraco, Ariella Brandon, Lindsay Gomez, Allie Moscow, Isabelle Olivit, Mele Smallwood and Makena Wright made up the chorus.
The production crew included director and choreographer David Ward, director, set designer and technical director Todd Van Amburgh and musical director Stephen Haines. Costume designer Andre Morissette created fabulous period costumes. "They were glorious," said Bradley. "The kids, especially Janet, looked fabulous. They really did it right," said Feinberg.
I hope audiences enjoy watching this fun and eccentric show as much as I enjoyed working on it.
"Rhythmic Revolution": Arranged by Chloe Arnold, performer, choreographer and former artistic director for Debbie Allen Productions, Rhythmic Revolution masterfully blends tap, Flamenco, Indian Odissi, and Brazilian rhythms. Featured performers include Emmy Award-winner Jason Samuels Smith, Broadway and film star Mark Mendonca, Japan's graceful and percussive Yukiko Misumi and India's Sarala Dandekar & Co. With a host of world-class dancers and musicians, "Rhythmic Revolution" will dazzle your senses and ignite the Castle stage.
"Rhythmic Revolution" shows at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $12, $22 or $32 (plus applicable fees). Call 242-7469 or visit MauiArts.org. for tickets.
"Nutcracker Sweets": Tickets are now on sale for "Nutcracker Sweets," a whimsical, family-friendly ballet based on the holiday classic. Running for two performances only, the ballet features guest artist Derek Sakakura and more than 100 Maui Academy of Performing Arts dancers.
"Nutcracker Sweets" shows at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at Maui Theatre (home of 'Ulalena). Seating is reserved. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for children 12 and under. Call 244-8760 for tickets.