In our modern age of instant gratification, YouTube sensations and information overload, originality is a rare commodity. A production fraught with stereotypes and clichés typically do not make for satisfying entertainment. But what if the plot of the show is about stereotypes and clichés?

Exit 22’s presentation of The Drowsy Chaperone serves up a tongue-in-cheek parody of musical comedies, with a side of energetic slap-stick. 

[Theo Budd]

As the show begins, a dowdy-looking man enters a darkened room and is henceforth referred to as the Man in Chair (Theo Budd). Addressing the house, he ironically utters the opening lines, “I hate theatre. It’s so disappointing.” From that moment on, the audience is invited to observe the show-within-a-show as Man in Chair provides an endearing and comedic running commentary about his favourite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone

[Jacob Wolstencroft, Ben Purych, Sophi-Anne Leroux, Hannah Williams]

The show is brought to life in his living quarters as he plays a record of the fictitious 1928 hit. He professes that the play is brimming with every cliché imaginable – mistaken identities, comic gangsters, spit takes, a Broadway diva, an oil tycoon, deus-ex-machina – just to name few! Theo Budd’s witty discourse is timely but it’s his pompous-sounding delivery of trivial knowledge that has the audience in raucous stitches. As he transitions the audience in and out of his reverie, aspects of his personal life are also revealed. His hilarious narrative teems with nostalgia, pathos, and cynicism.

[Ben Purych, Hannah Williams]

The sub-storyline is set at the Long Island mansion of the absent-minded Mrs. Tottendale (Hannah Unterschultz), who’s hosting a wedding for the glamorous Janet Van De Graaf (Kate Blackburn) to the debonair playboy Robert Martin (Stuart Barkley). In attendance are Robert’s best man, George (Oliver Castillo), Janet’s producer, Feldzieg (Ben Purych), the struggling chorine, Kitty (Hannah Williams), the outrageous Latin lover, Aldolpho (Jacob Woike), two mobsters masquerading as pastry chefs (Sophie-Anne Leroux and Jacob Wolstencroft), and a tipsy chaperone (Paige Fraser). 

This motley crew of characters dispenses a less-than-subtle hint that rambunctious mayhem is about to ensue. 

[Stuart Barkley]

Overall, the production is a delightful success, partly due to the established quality of the original script. The ensemble worked tremendously well together and the dance sequences were choreographed to perfection. The audience was utterly enthralled with the tap dancing scene. 

As they each progress in their careers, dancers Barkley, Castillo, Leroux, and Wolstencroft will emerge as triple threats with their talents in tap, song, and acting. 

Set and costume design (Heidi Wilkinson, Kim Bothen) both deserve a mention as their creativity showed fresh, functional, and charming characteristics. Three dazzling performances stole the show: Underling, Aldopho, and the orchestra. 

Henry Beasley plays the unflappable butler with unmistakable precision, while sprinkling the character with his own combination of cynical undertones and resigned dignity. Kudos for his effective enunciation, as his was the only character for whom I was able to hear all the dialogue. 

[Theo Bud, Makayla Moore, Sophi-Anne Leroux, Jacob Woike, Paige Fraser, Jacob Wolstencroft, Hannah Williams]

With his towering frame, scandalous gaze and ridiculous demeanor, Woike is aptly cast as the brawny woman-magnet, Aldopho. Although his performance is uproariously funny, there is room to dial up the masculine outrageousness of character and tone down some feminine gestures. 

[Sophie-Anne Leroux, Katherine Annmarie, Amanda D’Heer, Hannah Williams, Theo Bud, Justin Lapena, Kate Blackburn, Jacob Woike, Oliver Castillo, Jacob Wolstencroft, Elise Sherwood, Paige Fraser]

The well-traveled musical director, Kevin Michael Cripps, expertly conducts an orchestra of gifted performers, as they flawlessly execute fanciful tunes and dynamic dance sequences. However, the crowd-pleasing music may have been a tad too loud as, at times, it was difficult to hear the cast speak. A few microphones may need adjusting. 

The Drowsy Chaperone gets away with equal-opportunity pot shots aimed liberally at everything and everyone. No topic is sacred although no serious themes are ever raised. This light-hearted musical comedy within a comedy can be enjoyed at Capilano Theatre’s Blue Shore Financial Centre through April 5. Follow Purcell Way to the lower parking lot, where rates are cheaper.

Photos courtesy of Exit 22 Theatre.

About Our Contributor Cora Li

Cora Li

Cora dabbles in arts, technology, food, and travel. She loves that Vancouver offers a vast playground for exploring all of her passions. Cora’s most memorable job to date was working with VANOC during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

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