Review: “The Drowsy Chaperone”

A big Broadway musical has bloomed on Melbourne Civic Theatre’s small stage. It’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and boy, is it packed with talent and entertainment.

With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a Tony Award winning, uplifting musical wrapped in a poignant story told through the eyes of a character known as Man in Chair. Sitting in his lonely apartment, he plays a recording of the fictional musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

It soon becomes obvious that he is someone all but discarded by society. The album is a valued possession and he shares this — his love — with the audience. As it plays, his bleak, impoverished world recedes, replaced by the romantic shenanigans of colorful characters from old Hollywood.

Director Peg Girard really does the impossible here. With the help of scenic designer Caroline Osborne, lighting designer Alan Selby and Sound designer Wendy Reader, she brings the entire show, tap dancing, roller skating, airplane and all into that 93-seat theater.

From cavalier quips to deep emotion, Terrence Girard brings such love to his role of Man in Chair. We see how this is the Man’s escape from a real world that has left him behind. His portrayal is of a man who gravitates toward antiques and shuns cell phones and even intermissions, because they break the mood. Ultimately, his portrayal is endearing and moving.

Rita Moreno nearly steals the show as she vamps up the role of Drowsy Chaperone and squeezes every comic drop out of it. She brings high style and abundant flair to this role. In fact, you’ve never seen her so grand on stage. John Kurowski, who does such a splendid job as music director, has his best turn yet in the role of the Drowsy Chaperone’s Latin lover, Adolpho.

Holly McFarland delivers a one-two punch as choreographer (such fun and lively numbers) and in the role of Janet Van De Graaff, the woman who’s about to give up her Hollywood career to marry the man she loves. McFarland is very funny in “Show Off,” when she sings (oh, so very well) how she’s happy to remain in the background…NOT. Opposite her is newcomer Michael Biggs as tap dancing, roller skating sophisticate Robert. Biggs is a great addition to Brevard’s theater scene. Here’s hoping we see him in many more shows here.

Steven Wolf is always such fun in comedic roles. Here, he is Hollywood mogul, Feldzieg, who is beleaguered by his dumb as a fox assistant Kitty, played with delicious over-the-top pizazz by Brenda Sheets. What a treat to see Nellie Brannan back in the literal spotlight after a 21-year hiatus. She and Chandler McRee, as Mrs. Tottendale and Underling, deliver a raucous vaudeville spit-take routine.

Other standouts include Dana Blanchard who shows previously hidden tap dancing skill and Shelle Waller who lets loose a huge voice that easily sails above the rest of the cast.

The only itch with this production is the scenic design’s sterile concept. In this show, a two-dimensional world of color and gaiety invades a three-dimensional bleak world bereft of hope. We need that visual contrast to lend greater weight to the show’s last few, very touching, moments.

But truly, this is such an uplifting production. It’s tender and raucous, poignant and funny. And does it ever entertain. But you better get your tickets now…if they are still available.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Drowsy Chaperone” runs through April 22 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Tickets are $22 general and $20 seniors, military, students. Call 321-723-6935 or visit