The Drowsy Chaperone
Friday 19th October 2012
A show within a show, we open with the unnamed Man in Chair inviting us to join in listening to the soundtrack of his favourite musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone to stop him feeling blue. Witty, astute and passionate, he proceeds to guide us through the soundtrack, which we see come sparkling to life in the middle of his cosy apartment as though peering through a window into his imagination. The success of the entire premise of this show hinges on just the right actor in this pivotal central role, and Ian Southgate could not have been a better choice. His performance was charming and absorbing, his accent flawless, and he seemed to genuinely thrill in the revelation of the musical's scenes as if the part were written for him.
It was easy for the audience to be swept along with Man in Chair's enthusiasm as each of the scenes he narrates, and performers he describes, were so wonderfully realised by a very talented ensemble without a single weak voice between them. A simple story, lovingly parodying the plot lines of many 1920s musical comedies, The Drowsy Chaperone follows the story of a pair of young lovers on their wedding day.
Young bride Janet Van De Graff, played by the beautiful Juliet Thomas, was a resplendent leading lady. With a performance style like a Disney Princess, a delightful singing voice and wearing some wonderful period dresses - a perfect style for her slender frame - she fitted the role superbly. Her betrothed Robert Martin was confidently played by Samuel Cousins. Suave and elegant, his blindfolded scene on roller skates contained a courageous amount of movement considering the studio theatre setting, and he maintained a debonair poise throughout. The title role was performed by Nina Jarram, a wonderful drunk she stumbled gloriously through every scene and reacted with fantastically lusty enthusiasm when seduced by the hilarious Aldolpho, played with a straight-faced twinkle in his eye by Martin Harris.
Director and choreographer Jacob Allan has done an excellent job of bringing this enchanting musical to life, with the flexible space at the Brentwood Theatre thoughtfully designed to allow for the necessary roomy dance floor, but also create the intimacy of the Man in Chair's apartment. An impressive debut.
A wonderful choice of production by BOS, executed with skill, enthusiasm and professionalism, enthusiastically enjoyed by the sell-out Friday night audience. So bought in was I by the curtain that there was almost had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat as Man in Chair was joyously absorbed into the musical he loved.