The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Drowsy Chaperone.
Book by Don Martin and Don Kellar. Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Director: Karl McNamara. Fab Nobs, Bayswater (Vic). 9th-24th November, 2012.

It’s Fabulous! There you go, my shortest review ever. Oh, you want details? Well if you insist. This is the slightly goofy story of a shy agoraphobic man – The Man in the Chair - who rarely goes out of his run down apartment, instead playing his Broadway show records….yes, vinyl ones….for comfort. He includes us, the audience, as confidantes and shares with us his favourite little known show, the 1928 musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”. As he does, the musical comes to life in his tiny apartment. It’s a typical old style musical which includes a star who wants to leave Showbiz to marry, a chaperone who is drunk or “drowsy” throughout, a Latin Lothario, two gangsters, a ditsy chorus girl, and even an aviatrix with the ability to marry people ( Huh?), and a pearly toothed hero – on roller skates! (Don’t ask!) That’s it in a nutshell. Except that on Broadway the walls flew away and sets flew in and the Manhattan apartment became no more than the chair in the corner. Fab Nobs don’t have that kind of budget – nor do they have the stage space, but it doesn’t matter one little bit.

Director Karl McNamara, with the amazing Nick Kong, has designed (and built) an amazing set which includes a real fridge with side by side doors (and the doors are full of milk and other foods) which also serves as an exit and entrance. It’s wonderful innovation and hilarious the first time you see the cast coming out of the fridge (with asides about how cold it is in there.) The use of space is amazing on such a tiny stage, but then Fab Nobs is all about surprising and delighting the audience by “re-thinking” productions and finding new heart.

The lovely performance of Angelo DeCata, as the man in the chair, is the first delight. Mr DeCata is a very fine actor indeed, as his awards will attest. He creates his own “Man”….endearing, and with a naïve sense of wonderment at the musical world he feels safe in. We can’t help but feel for him and want to hug him, such is his childlike innocence – and yet the character is beautifully layered, and the self effacing melancholy is palpable. This is a man who feels he has failed at life and has retreated. It’s a vastly different performance to the great Geoffrey Rush’s reading of the part – but no less impressive. He is stunning.

Nicholas Kong and Lizzie Matjacic (Two Fab Nobs stalwarts) are dazzling  in their intentionally OTT roles of Aldolfo and The Chaperone respectively. Both are blessed with great comedic timing, oodles of stage presence and great voices. They provided the bulk of the laughs and nail every entrance. Amy Larson, another multiple award winner, is the consummate soubrette and an impressive triple threat. Christian Cavallo (Robert – The Hero) and Damien Calvert (George, his best man) understand the period and milk it beautifully. The remaining cast are all excellent, though the very young Shannon Pendrey (Kitty) needs to work on the difference between projecting and screeching.

Technically the show is a triumph. The omnipresent Leanne Gooding has run a tight ship, as well as sewing the costumes (designed by Nick Kong) Shawn Klueh’s sound design is excellent….even when battling heavy rain on a tin roof on opening night. Vaness Burke’s lighting design works a treat and Vicki Quinn’s musical direction of an excellent and very tight band is to be applauded. The Director also choreographed, designed the programme and took the photos!

The “man” says of old style musicals “They take you away to anther world

and give you a little tune to carry with you in your head to help you escape the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you're feeling blue.” We should never forget that. It’s all about entertainment and Fab Nobs do that brilliantly. Far from drowsy, I was wide awake and enthralled throughout.

Coral Drouyn

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