Holy Cats, Maryland, a musical in space!? No, no a musical performed by those who navigate space. In the far flung corner of Washington, D.C. and Maryland, the feisty and jovial Music and Drama Club, a special interest group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, perform a sky high rendition of the satirical “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a gem of musical theatre repertoire that pokes fun at the musicals of yesteryear – particularly at Cole Porter’s nonsensical storytelling, yet memorable and popular tunes. However, the narrative structure is a bit different as a lonely old man (The Man in Chair) enthusiastically describes his favorite musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” while playing the musical’s records on his old gramophone. With witty interjections and actor gossip that is certainly tmi (too much information), the Man in Chair revels in the sugary sweetness of the classic music. However, the Man in Chair also hints at his own personal struggles such as a broken marriage, depression, parent issues, and never found love. The contrast between a harsh reality and bright fantasy manages to find harmony to make this musical stand out from others.
MAD (Music and Drama Club) won over their audience with memorable characters, clever choreography, and a cast that enjoyed every minute of being on stage.
On Saturday night of opening weekend, the audience had the pleasure of seeing Eliot Malumuth as the nostalgic Man in Chair, Laura Hope Shapiro as the sharp and vodka-soaked tongued Drowsy Chaperone, Laura Fisher as the insatiable Janet Van Der Graaf, Suzanne Smith as the ditzy Kitty, Leah Camphor as pun throwing Gangster 1, and Emily Riviello as the welcome deus ex machina Trix to sew together any loose threads.
Malumuth’s performance was reminiscent of a Mr. Rogers-esque character taking us through a memory. His voice and timbre was gentle with a sort of sweet sadness that can be described as nostalgia mixed with regret. The audience was completely captured by his narrative ability and the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. And what would the “The Drowsy Chaperone” be without the titular character The Drowsy Chaperone? Shapiro’s expressions were a marvel to watch with flickering wide-eyes and strong bellicose reactions that challenge the scene-stealing Nathan Sanders (Aldolpho) for attention. It’s a good thing these two were on stage together frequently because they certainly fed off of each other’s energy much to the production’s benefit. Robert (Sean Morton) and George (Michael Silber) paired well together and made some magic happen with their cold…probably now very warm feet. David Murray Solomon as Underling knew how to milk every laugh even if his only job was to interrupt an elaborate tap dance to deliver two glasses of water. Solomon and Kathy Nieman (Mrs. Tottendale) tittered around the plot always adding and never detracting from the amusements of the show. Unfortunately, Trix the Aviatrix doesn’t get much stage time due to the condensed nature of the show, but Emily Riviello brought a final surge of brilliance to an already successful performance.
Wait. Someone hasn’t come. Someone isn’t here. Where is Janet Van Der Graaf? Laura. Fisher, appears! Fisher’s rendition of “Show Off” is iconic with memorable tricks, costume changes, and a whole lot of personality. MAD (Music and Drama Club) won over their audience with memorable characters, clever choreography, and a cast that enjoyed every minute of being on stage.
On the technical side of the show, MAD Club productions maneuvered their set, lights, and even real pit band into a unique space. Set Designer Kim Weaver used art decco colors and patterns to create a luxury hotel lobby for a majority of the action. Off to stage left, the Man in Chair’s apartment living room looked as though it had endured the ages with musical theatre artifacts hanging sadly off the wall. Costume Designer Suzanne Smith chose pieces wisely especially with a stunning set of dresses for each of the leading ladies at the end of the production. Finally, a huge round of applause for first time director Ben Rollins for an excellent dive into the musical theatre deep end. He directed his show with grace and glam, a sure start to a successful directing career.
Do not let a week’s worth of drowsiness prevent you from seeing “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Enjoy an evening with a charming show and even more importantly, a charming cast.
Running Time: About 1 hour and 45 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” plays through November 10th at the Barney & Bea Recreation Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. For tickets or more information, click here.