For 14 years, I have been covering many of the shows at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in downtown Arlington Heights. While I have enjoyed a number of their productions, until today, I have found most of them closer to what I would call “Community Theater”, not professional as Chicago theater audiences expect. This changed today ( and from what I have learned, the future). Their current production, “The Drowsy Chaperone”, a cute musical comedy written by Lisa Lambert, Bob Martin, Don McKellar and Greg Morrison, shows me that they have landed on the “A Train” and are heading in the right direction, so year 15 and beyond should be worth the trip.
This particular show is a musical with very little memorable music, but lots of comedy and story. It is pure escapism and entertainment, which is what theater is supposed to be. By the way, the Metropolis has added an actual curtain, which makes us feel the theater is truly a theater. This show is about a man, who loves his musical theater and his ability to escape the world around him, which as it turns out has not been kind to him, for at least a few hours. We are in his apartment when he takes out the two record (anyone recall records?) album of the mythical musical of the 1920’s, “The Drowsy Chaperone”, and tells us the story as we listen to it come to life in his apartment. Unlike the massive Broadway production where actors came out of his refrigerator , Kaitlin Donelon’s set is not quite as outrageous as this, but truly works well.
The story is filled with characters, or as one audience member said caricatures; gangsters, movie stars, wannabe movie stars, showgirls, a butler and many others who propel this Tony Award winning musical to a theatrical experience. We are going to a wedding! Starlet Janet Van De Graaf ( a superb job by the very talented Shari Mocheit) is about to wed Robert Martin (deftly handled by Ryan Dooley). Janet’s Broadway producer, Feldzeig (played to perfection by John Gurdian) will lose his backers if this happens so it is his job to stop the wedding. His gangster investors have sent two hit men, disguised as bakers (Dominic Rescigno and Colin Funk) to let him know that if she does marry, his follies will lose its backing.
Since it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day, a chaperone ( the adorable Debbie Di Verde) to make sure they are kept apart. From this point we have mistaken identities and star struck non talents trying to get the job. We also have an Italian lover boy, Adolpho (charmingly played by Brett Baleskie) who it turns out is more than we expected. In fact, this is a very strong ensemble with lots of new, and local talent bringing this charming musical to life. Amanda Bloom, Sarah Hoch, Phillip Kaiser, Erin Long, Thomas Novak, Rachel Proulx, Jake Stempel, Sarafina Vecchio and Chris Vizurraga and in the role of the Man in The Chair, our host for the evening, the amazing Matt Mcnabb. There were times that I truly felt that I was in his personal home. A great deal of credit has to go to director Lauren Rawitz, who with this production has “hit it out of the park”!
Act one is a wee long, which by the way makes act two feel too short. In other words, we have a two hour and five minute show with the first act being one hour and fifteen minutes. There are some very cute scenes and one smashing tap dance number “Cold Feet” that you will find adorable (Novak is hysterical in this one and in a drink sequence with Ms Vecchio). “No More” is another long number that allows us to see the amazing talents of Ms Mocheit. She is something else!. As I said earlier, this is by far the best production I have reviewed in this venue and I am looking forward to next season. I sure hope they find more roles for Mcnabb (or is he part of “The Drowsy Chaperone” rights?
Kudos to Jen Cupani (choreography), KClare Kemock for her wonderful costumes, Theresa Neumayer for all the props she assembled and managed, Mickey York and his 6 musicians who fill the theater with great music along with Michael Wagner for his lighting and William Franz for his sound. This is a slick production and will continue at The metropolis Performing Arts Centre located in Arlington Hts at 111 West Campbell Street thru June 14th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 7 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, May 27th at 1 p.m.
Tickets are only $38 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 847-577-2121 or online at www.MetropolisArts.com
Lots of dining spots in the area and plenty of free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Drowsy Chaperone”.