Fab Nobs Wide Awake With The Drowsy Chaperone
Another intimate musical is taking shape at the Fab Factory in the Melbourne suburb of Bayswater. Coral Drouyn writes:
My favourite community theatre is tucked away on an industrial estate in Bayswater in an old factory. It’s not the most luxurious venue but the atmosphere is great and you can have a glass of wine and nibbles while you watch the show. And, to paraphrase the Bard himself “The show’s the thing.” Fab Nobs offer the best (and often the most obscure) of musical theatre in small but near perfect productions which sparkle with talent and excellence. They’re a tight-knit and democratic group who choose their projects by consensus andtake it in turns to direct. Their production of Next To Normal in June provided me with one of my best nights ever in theatre. It’s not surprising then that I am excited about The Drowsy Chaperone which opens at The Fab Factory on Nov 9th.
It’s not a show we’ve had much chance to see in Victoria, as The MTC production with Geoffrey Rush sold out very quickly. Basically it is a musical within a play – as “The Man In The Chair,” a Broadway Musical buff, talks to the audience and plays records of his favourite 1928 musical…which then comes alive on the stage. It’s an affectionate spoof, a parody on all the clichés from all the musicals of the era.
The plot incorporates mistaken identities, an unflappable English butler, an absent-minded dowager, a Broadway impresario and his Follies production, comic gangsters, a ditzy chorus girl, a harried best man, and Janet's "Drowsy" (i.e. "tipsy”) Chaperone, played in the show-within-a-show by a blowzy Grande Dame of the stage, specializing in "rousing anthems" and not above upstaging the occasional co-star. In this production The Chaperone is played by Lizzie Matjajic, who was so impressive in Next to Normal.
The Director is Karl McNamara, who has delighted Fabnobs audiences of previous productions with his charismatic presence. “I love the goofiness of it all. The send up of the early musicals, many of which were endearing but silly, somehow melds seamlessly with very sophisticated lyrics and the dry, world-weary one-liners of The Man In The Chair”, he tells me. “Rehearsals are hectic, but fun, as we keep discovering new references to the musicals and the period. I’m a huge fan of the black and white old film musicals, right back to the days of 42nd Street, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. And then there are all those Technicolor MGM Musicals which seem timeless. We hope there are enough young people, as well as those who treasure those musicals from their childhoods, who will enjoy this to make it one of our most successful productions.”
If you don’t know where Fab Nobs is, or you think it’s too far away, make the effort. Looking at what’s on offer in Melbourne in November, The Drowsy Chaperone has to be high on the list, and you’ll be sorry if you miss it. When community theatre is as good as Fab Nobs is, it’s a privilege to support it.
The Drowsy Chaperone plays from 9th-24th November, 2012.