The Drowsy Chaperone: A Review

St Jacobs Playhouse

The Drowsy Chaperone plays at The St Jacobs Country Playhouse


St Jacobs, Ontario, is known for its Farmers Market and its antiques, but it also boasts a small gem of a theater. The current show at the St Jacobs Country Playhouse (through April 15, 2018) is The Drowsy Chaperone and it’s a winner.

With a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar (of Slings and Arrows fame) and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, The Drowsy Chaperone started on Toronto’s fringe theater scene and went on to become an international hit. It’s easy to see why.

Essentially, it’s a parody of 1920s musicals but if the creators had left it at that it would no doubt have sunk like a stone. Instead they use an ingenious framing device — a lonely schlub alone in his drab apartment invites us to listen to his favorite old time musical. This allows us to enjoy the highlights without the chaff. And what highlights they are.

The Drowsy Chaperone, the show within the show, tells the sort of frothy tale that P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton used to churn out for the Broadway musical stage: A famous stage star is about to throw it all away to marry the rich scion of an oil empire, but her producer, under threat from mobsters who are heavily invested in his next show, can’t let that happen. Added to the mix is the tipsy chaperone of the title, tasked with preventing the betrothed from seeing each other on the day of the wedding. She fails, of course, as does the producer and hilarity ensues.

All of this is great fun thanks in no small part to the energetic choreography of Robin Calvert and the spot-on costumes of Rachel Berchtold. But it is the cast that really shines.

The aforementioned schlub (we later discover he’s suffered through a debilitating divorce), known simply as Man in Chair in the playbill, is embodied by Mike Nadajewski. A regular at the Stratford Festival where he usually plays minor supporting roles, Nadajewski here gets a shot at a star turn and he makes the most of it.

The women in the musical within the musical take pride of place. They’re all terrific — Jayme Armstrong as the megastar, Gabrielle Jones as the chaperone with a belt that is anything but drowsy, Jennifer Thiessen as the dizzyingly ditzy girlfriend of the producer, and Glynis Ranney as the doyenne in whose mansion the action unfolds.

This production may not be a match for the original, which I did not see, but until a time machine comes along it will more than suffice. The price is right, the theater is a super comfortable gem with nary a bad seat in the house, the company is congenial, so what’s holding you back?

A Restaurant Tip

There may be fancier places nearby, but I was perfectly happy at The Crazy Canuck, a family run vest-pocket eatery across the street from the Playhouse. Great burgers and house-smoked meats are on offer along with a few vegetarian offerings, two-person pizzas and, of course, poutine in a variety of exotic permutations. The locally brewed IPA is the quaff of choice.
845 Weber Street
Waterloo, ON
519-747-2729

The Drowsy Chaperone
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission
Through April 15, 2018
St Jacobs Country Playhouse
40 Benjamin Street East
Waterloo, ON
519-747-7788

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