This is – Way better than you might expect from a school production – a hidden gem.
I had to see this. Given that this is one of my all-time favourite musicals, and this is the only Chaperone on the Fringe this year, I had little choice! However, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quality of this American schools production, by Charter Oak High School, supported by AHSTF, WorldStrides
The show’s own history is more recent than you might imagine. It started as a small sketch format comedy in 1998 before emerging as a more starry and elegant Los Angeles production a year later. The buzz stirred up by that production immediately set the wheels in motion for its transfer to Broadway, and the rest as they say is history.
We view each scene through the eyes of the narrator (the ‘man in the chair’) played effortlessly and flawlessly by the brilliant Tyler Guntenspergen, as he sits in his grubby apartment and plays his favourite record (yes record!): the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 Musical: The Drowsy Chaperone.
We are transported back to a bygone era, of American Jazz age musicals and a host of wonderful characters; two lovers on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man, a desperate theatre producer, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a misguided Don Juan and the titular Drowsy Chaperone.
The music, singing and dancing and humour in this piece are all intentionally dated but equally wonderful. The asides and voice overs from ‘the man in the chair’ are also some of the funniest moments.
The Drowsy Chaperone steals shamelessly and joyfully from other musicals, but it isn’t a parody. It’s a homage, with all the stock characters created in 1920s musicals who found their way into early movies.
This love letter to Golden Age theatre is a must see for all musical theatre lovers, and all who love a good laugh! And If you have never seen The Drowsy Chaperone this is a wonderfully accessible version.
Arrive early to get a good seat in this small venue.
Running time – 1hr 30mins
Reviewer: Greg Holstead
Reviewed: 4th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: