The Drowsy Chaperone Wows!

By Mike Jones


Keyano Theatre Company has another smash on their hands with their performance of Bob Martin and Don McKellar’s The Drowsy Chaperone. Billed a musical within a comedy, this show has a little
something for everyone. If you are a fan of musicals, you will love the beautifully constructed pieces and dances choreographed by Ron Schuster and Director Darold Roles. You will also enjoy the cheeky sense of humour that is at times ridiculous and other times poignant. Even the non-musical fan will enjoy as the show (sometimes relentlessly) picks apart some of the genre’s clichés and occasional silliness. Packed with self-referential humour, it wasn’t a surprise to hear the show is a Canadian production which debuted in Toronto in 1998 before moving to Broadway nearly a decade later.

I am consistently always amazed by the pure production value that KTC is known for- and the vast majority of productions are always vastly entertaining. In the theatre world as a whole, occasionally some longer productions can drag a little bit in the middle but this production never falters. At one point you will be belly laughing at the hilarious community provided throughout by The Man In The Chair (portrayed by the brilliant Jason Beck); at another sitting back and wondering “how did they do that”? Harkening back to a time before Computer Animation replaced even the most basic effect in film- this show relies on some of the old classical tricks of days gone by. It’s a testament to the hard work of the crew backstage including Stage Manager Zachary Barrett and Production Designer T. Erin Gruber who along with Megan Koshka help bring the colourful world of the roaring 1920’s to life with brilliant costumes. Musical Director Hilary Hornberger returns to the Keyano Theatre Company to help bring the songbook of Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison from the page to the stage. Music aficionados will also appreciate the show being dedicated to longtime Edmonton composter Tommy Banks who passed away earlier this year. Director’s Roles and Schuster worked with Tommy Banks on the musical the Jazzcracker which made its world premiere on this very Keyano stage back in 1998. Twenty years later, the two are back with another brilliant ensemble piece. –

The beauty of an ensemble piece like this is it takes everyone moving together as one to make it happen- but some of the individual performances are brilliant here. In addition to the aforementioned Beck, newcomer to Fort McMurray Helen Killorn brings a theatrical triple threat of singing, acting and dancing that threatens to steal every scene she’s in. Which she just might if she weren’t paired with the equally talented Zenon Campbell. With his knack for physical comedy and brilliant timing- he has had many a KTC audience in uproarious laughter but in this show he takes it to a whole other level! The pair of them bring together one of the catchiest songs in the show with an outrageous dance number that at times seems almost dangerous but don’t worry they are professionals, folks!

Another absolute scene-stealer is T.J. Carabeo as the romanticizing Adolpho. His talent shines through- as does his chemistry with another brilliant performance from Dianne Pare as “The Drowsy Chaperone” whose alcohol-induced antics send many of the plays critical plot points spiraling out of control. They are a central part of a completely out of the blue middle act performance that I absolutely will not spoil here.

Some of the funniest moments of the film come to us courtesy of two gangsters disguised (poorly) as Pastry Chefs. They are portrayed by two youngsters with more stage experience than some of the adults in this show Camryn Hannigan and Jane Gibson and both of them showcase a real knack for comedy. Their interactions with film director Feldzeig played by the always brilliant Norm Sutton who is as good as immersing himself in a character as anyone are equally brilliant. Speaking of Sutton, his scenes with Kitty (portrayed by Brieanna McCutcheon who plays the character so well she almost becomes unrecognizable) are also fantastic and lead the story down some unexpected turns.

Scenes involving Terri Mort and Dave Martin are surefire crowd-pleasers as both transform into their respective characters and make some classic comedy trademarks seem new again (You’ll have to see the show to see what I mean). Equally brilliant is relative newcomer Phil Howell as the wedding planner George.

The show not only pokes fun at musical clichés, but also at some of the jokes that used to be okay back then- but not so much anymore centering around a few questionable scenes as well as a late-show appearance by Jennifer Stephenson’s Trix. In a show packed with innuendo’s, however most of them will go over children’s heads and I would say the show is appropriate for all but young babies who may find the show’s loud production numbers to be a bit much.

The Ensemble runs the gauntlet of experience featuring a first time KTC appearance from Gabriel Snyman (although he has some experience in his native South Africa) and Isabelle Doblanko who was involved in Keyano Theatre’s very first season back in 1980! It really speaks to the testament of community theatre to see Ensemble members like Suzanne Quick who started acting at the age of three and Tammie Austin who didn’t get her start until age 54! The volunteer requirements are always incredible such as the case of full-time mother of 4 and teacher Sherri Reed- and the always hilarious Hanna Fridhed who balances her love for acting and directing with a full-time marketing job and representing Theatre; Just Because, the ADFA, Arts Council Wood Buffalo and Theatre Alberta in various roles. Also pulling double duty in the show as Ensemble and Reporters are the quirky and talented Jenny Price and Elizabeth Wells who on at least one occasion have been known to come out to the lobby in character collecting reviews from audience members.

Those reviews have been almost unanimously positive after the show’s opening weekend. The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday this weekend and after an extremely busy weekend in Fort McMurray last week with the Alberta Winter Games and WinterPlay it’s safe to say the tickets will be just that much more in demand on the show’s final week. Do not miss this show!!

Filed under: Keyano Theatre, Keyano Theatre Company, review