Thursday, November 19, 2015

theatre review - THE DROWSY CHAPERONE - Desert Foothills Theater - November 15, 2015

Matthew Harris
Photo by Tiffany Bolock
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 22nd.

"The only people who break out into song in real life are the truly deranged," states Man in Chair, the narrator of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone. While he makes this comment in explaining how ridiculous musicals are, since people do often break out in song at the drop of a hat in them, he also loves musicals. In fact, you could say he Loves them with a capital "L." His infectious love for them, and for one show in particular, is what makes this musical such a joyful experience. Desert Foothills Theater's production of this Tony winning show features an amazing, heartfelt, and moving performance from Matthew Harris as Man in Chair that more than offsets this production's few drawbacks.  The show is set in the apartment of a single man who decides to play the cast recording of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone to cheer himself up. This fictitious 1928 show is one that he says perfectly achieves the escape from reality that musicals can provide. As he plays the record for himself and for us (as the fourth wall is fairly nonexistent in this show), the musical comes to life in his apartment with many of the characters from the show emerging from his refrigerator. He also frequently stops the record at appropriate moments to give us information and his analysis, most of it comical, about both the plot and characters of the show and some interesting facts about the actors who played these parts in the 1928 production.....The way that Harris portrays how obsessive Man in Chair is about this particular musical is endearing, but when the character speaks about himself, his past, and his feelings, Harris turns him into the heart and soul of this show—a heart and soul that we want to protect. Harris' performance is so good and touching that I was almost moved to tears at the end of the show when he reveals some personal information about Man in Chair. ...Emily Noxon is an absolute riot as the Drowsy Chaperone. With her vapid line delivery that perfectly evokes the Chaperone's cynical view of life and an ever present martini glass,...However, several members of the cast falter a bit on their vocals with their singing not quite up to par with Noxon and the rest of their castmates. Co-directors Jere Van Patten and Marisa Brady ensure that the mood of the piece never falters, which is impressive considering it changes from comedic to serious and back a few times throughout the show. It's just too bad that all of their cast, including the ensemble, aren't up to the caliber of Harris. ....While there may be a few flaws in DFT's production of this Tony winning musical, Matthew Harris' performance and his expertly delivered comedic, insightful, and personable commentary help the entire production rise above the shortcomings and turn it into a comical and memorable show. You will definitely laugh a lot, but with the connection to the material and the character Harris provides, you will most likely be moved as well."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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