2018 Cappie Nominees: Featured Actress: Retta Laumann; Comic Actor in a Musical: Xavier Molina; and Lead Actor in a Musical: Ethan Chow
Kristen Waagner, McLean High School
Submitted for publication to Cappies News
We all have that one musical that we never get tired of listening to. For some, it’s “Carousel.” For others, it’s “Wicked.” For the Man in Chair, it’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a 1928 musical about a wedding in the Prohibition Era. He laughs, he cries, and he sings along to the songs of his favorite Broadway stars in Wakefield High School’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” reminding us of the pure joy that theatre can bring out in everyone. Originally written by a group of friends (including Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, and Greg Morrison) for a stag party, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a love letter to the musical comedies of the 1920s. With music in the style of the Gershwins and Cole Porter, the madcap hijinks of the characters are narrated by an enthusiastic and reclusive theatre fan known as the Man in Chair. He invites the audience to accompany him in listening to his beloved vinyl record of the fictional 1928 hit, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which centers around the wedding of rich kid Robert Martin and leading lady Janet Van De Graaff. Mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay (happy!) wedding ensue, with the Man in Chair commentating on it all and speaking for everyone’s inner theatre lover. Ethan Chow, as the Man in Chair, served to connect the audience with the ‘show within a show,’ interjecting in each scene with his own hilarious commentary. With every word to every song memorized, Chow showed remarkable commitment to his character, expanding upon the stereotype of the die-hard theatre fan. His performance was the thread that tied each character together, and he sang with earnest passion in the heartwarming finale, “As We Stumble Along (Reprise).” The talented ensemble cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” emphasized the whimsical nature of their characters, vying for the spotlight in each number. Especially notable were the leading couple of Janet (Samantha Rios) and Robert (Garrett Rinker), who were both strong singers and handled difficult choreography (including tap for Rinker) well. The youthful Rios shone vocally in her big number “Bride’s Lament,” accompanied by a chorus of dancing monkeys. Xavier Molina as Aldolpho was a crowd favorite, with perfectly over-the-top choices that, when paired with his rich tenor voice, made his song, “I Am Aldolpho,” particularly hilarious. Though there were some sound issues during the production, the actors, particularly Molina and the energetic Trix (Retta Laumann), handled them without a hitch. The “Not-So-Drowsy” Pit Orchestra was well-balanced, encapsulating the mood of a vinyl record being played on repeat particularly well. Detailed and versatile, the set easily transitioned from an average apartment to the setting of fantastical dream sequences and production numbers. A tribute to the tropes of the classic Broadway musical, Wakefield’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” celebrates love, comedy, and theatre in the best way possible.
Katie Bushman Stone Bridge High School
Submitted for publication to Cappies News 2
There’s nothing like the feeling of curling up in a cozy chair and listening to your favorite record. With The Drowsy Chaperone, Wakefield High School invites us to share this experience as their talented cast presented a hilarious and dazzling production that was anything but drowsy. Debuting in 1998, The Drowsy Chaperone is a spoof of golden-age musical comedies. The play-within-a-play format centers on a lonely, middle-aged man listening to a record of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens to the soundtrack, adding hilarious commentary and wry facts about the actors, the show comes to life in his apartment living room. The musical itself is a satirized comedy telling the story of Janet Van De Graaff, a glamorous showgirl giving up a life on stage to marry Robert Martin. Predictably, hijinks ensue, including gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, blindfolded roller-skating, and an aviatrix for a minister. The standout performance of the show was Ethan Chow as the Man in Chair. His endearingly awkward, incredibly enthusiastic persona was a perfect middleman between the audience and the farce occurring onstage as he provided quips throughout the show. He was constantly engaged – in each musical number he could be found dancing in his chair and mouthing the lyrics. Though his clever and irreverent jokes had the audience roaring in their seats, he added depth to his character through more serious but just as well-delivered monologues in the second act. Each character in the show-within-a-show also delivered an incredibly strong performance. As Janet, Samantha Rios wowed with powerful vocals in starring numbers such as “Show Off” and “Bride’s Lament.” Her fiancé, Robert (Garrett Rinker), also shone with a toothpaste-model demeanor and impeccable tap dancing skills. A bright spark of humor and talent was Xavier Molina as the self-proclaimed “King of Romance,” the eccentric Spaniard Aldolpho. Rounding out the cast were Xitlalli Dawson as the perfectly ditzy and energetic wannabe showgirl Kitty and the small but unforgettable role of Retta Laumann as Trix the aviatrix. The set, designed by Conrad Burns and crew, cleverly balanced the Man in Chair’s bachelor pad with the wedding guest house, including clever details such as a refrigerator doubling as a front door. The pit orchestra shone in bold, jazzy numbers as they navigated the score with ease. Although there were some issues with mics, the cast boldly soldiered through. The incredible talent of each and every cast member made The Drowsy Chaperone at Wakefield High School a roaring success.
Helen Ganley McLean High School
Submitted for publication to Patch.com
The needle of the record player (yes, records) scratches across the vinyl surface of the disc, bringing to life a world full of color and music and glamour all within the living room of a fairly average man. To peek into this world of showgirls, gangster bakers, and European narcissists, sit for Wakefield High School’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” let the lights dim and wait for the overture, a musical appetizer, to begin. As a tantalizing show within a show, “The Drowsy Chaperone” began as a book written by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, before opening on Broadway in 2006 and being adapted into a movie in 2014. The show, purposely designed to spoof old musicals and play on the archetypes of musical comedy, was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won five. The show follows a middle-aged, asocial musical theatre fan as he plays the record of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, while the show comes to life in his living room as he interjects his opinions on the music, plot, and actors. Whether he was sitting solemnly next to his record player or meandering across the stage mouthing the lyrics to the songs, Ethan Chow brought a new level of depth and sincerity to Man in Chair. Chow’s ability to both wryly deliver comedic quips and deliver heartfelt monologues was astounding, showcasing his exceptional range of emotions in his acting. Unfolding in Chow’s living room was the love story of Robert Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, played by Garrett Rinker and Samantha Rios. Rinker’s sitcom-like mannerisms and commendable tap, especially during “Cold Feets,” characterized him as the love-struck groom that he was. Rios impressed with her vocal abilities, especially in “Bride’s Lament” where she showcased both her laudable belt and sensual physicality, characterizing her as a flashy showgirl. Together the couple’s infallible chemistry in “Accident Waiting to Happen” perpetuated an aura of innocent romance. Flouncing dramatically across the stage while wielding his ornate cane, Xavier Molina both demanded and commanded attention as Aldolpho. Molina’s overstated and melodramatic movements, paired with his charming accent, incited raucous applause, especially during his over-the-top rendition of “I am Aldolpho.” The duo of pastry-gangsters, Jason McPhee and Gidget Shirley, were not the threatening image that the word gangster implies, but rather were a whisk-wielding cheeky couple whose rendition of “Toledo Surprise” was colorful and energetic. Standing stoically as the butler, Underling, Jack Cackley’s polished energy was surprisingly excellent. Cackley’s poise and delivery of his minimal yet cynical lines created memorable moments for all. The tech crews were the ones who made the show within a show possible. The light crews effectively changed the hue and intensity of their lights in order to distinguish between the musical and the Man in Chair’s reality. This reality was created through effective uses of props, including a record collection and player, along with a detailed apartment. Also, The Not-So-Drowsy” Pit Orchestra delivered a consistent performance, their technique and musicality accentuating the actors onstage. If you crave a little tune to carry within your head, something to help you escape the dreary horrors of the real world, or are even just feeling a bit blue, come and escape to another world: a musical. Wakefield High School’s rendition of “The Drowsy Chaperone” should definitely be a stop as you stumble along on life’s funny journey.
Alannah Rivera, McLean High School
Submitted for publication to Insidenova – Sun Gazette
If you’re ever feeling blue, Wakefield High School knows just what to do. Stumble along to their production of The Drowsy Chaperone, and they’ll show you how to turn that frown upside down through the beauty and power of musical theatre. The Drowsy Chaperone premiered on Broadway in 2006 and was the recipient of five Tony Awards. Marketed as a musical within a comedy, the plot follows an antisocial theatre fanatic as he reminisces about his favorite (fictional) musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Within the fictional production, the story follows a cast of zany characters in the days before a wedding, and hilarity ensues as classic theatrical faux pas draw snide comments from the man regarding the lunacy of the theatre. Ethan Chow as Man in Chair rivaled the skill of a professional, seasoned actor. His uncompromising commitment to his character, dead-on comedic timing, and wry deadpan commentary was fascinating to watch, and his enthusiasm was boundless, as he was engaged in every scene even when he wasn’t speaking. Chow also proved an impressive depth of character in more serious moments, demonstrating his dexterity as an actor. Chow mastered the balance between being relatable, yet utterly absurd when it comes to the theatre – something that many theatre-obsessed audience members could understand. The colorful cast of characters within The Drowsy Chaperone exuded talent and burst with energy in every single scene. Garrett Rinker dazzled as Robert Martin, the always-grinning groom-to-be. Rinker’s charm and confidence radiated through the audience and even though his character may have had cold feet, Rinker most certainly did not. As bride-to-be Janet Van De Graaff, the show-off show girl, Samantha Rios stole the show with her crystalline vocals and sassy confidence, perfectly embodying a classic Broadway leading lady. Even more extravagant was Xavier Molina in the role of Aldolpho – hopefully you can remember the name. Molina’s sharp movements and boisterous voice expertly walked the line between being outlandishly dramatic without being too overdone, and his wit and accent were consistent throughout the show. The technical elements were equally as whimsical as and fun as the cast. The inventive set design featured numerous different zones of the house, festive wallpaper, and excellent attention to detail. The lighting crew made good use of steadily-operated spotlights and colorful washes to define the spaces within the set and to separate Man in Chair from the rest of the cast. Wakefield High School’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone reminded every single audience member why they love the theatre: it’s a little silly, a lot of fun, and it has the ability to make you feel things you didn’t know you could feel.
Emilia Couture, Washington-Lee High School
Submitted for publication to Connection
Although entitled “The Drowsy Chaperone”, Wakefield High School’s spring musical was anything but sleepy and lethargic. The cast and crew performed the musical parody with excellent comedic timing and energy, providing entertainment and laughter for all. Written by Don McKellar, Bob Martin, Lisa Lambert, and Greg Morrison, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a musical comedy that puts a new twist on classic trope of a show-within-a-show. The show debuted on Broadway at the Marquis theatre in 2006. It was nominated for 13 Tonys and won several such as “Best Original Score” and “Best Costume Design”. The show begins with the “Man in Chair” (Ethan Chow) delivering a short monologue about the theatre. He then puts on a record of his favorite show which shares the name of the musical itself. The “Man in Chair” character serves as both a narrator and a character with his own arc. Chow played this with depth and a comedic charisma that allowed the audience to trust him and also laugh with him. The frequent breaking of the fourth wall to share trivia about the show allowed for an intimate feel that drew the audience in and made them chuckle. Chow spoke comedy throughout the show but took a more serious tone for the monologues that the “Man in Chair” has. The main monologues are about his divorce and then about why he loves the record. Chow delivered both with a touching integrity. As the record spins and the show begins, we meet the cast of characters that are involved in the wedding of the glamorous celebrity Janet Van De Graaff (Samantha Rios) and her fiancée Robert Martin (Garrett Rinker). Both Rinker and Rios quickly demonstrate their respective vocal prowess with their renditions of “Cold Feets” and “Show Off”. Another cast member with polished vocals was Xavier Molina. Molina played Aldolpho, a Hispanic man who is the self-proclaimed “king of romance”. His pitch was spot on, and his comedic timing was excellent. His song of seduction to the Chaperone, “I am Aldolpho”, was absolutely hilarious. The ensemble as a whole had an excellent chemistry that kept up the momentum of the plot. Comedy can be difficult to sustain, but this cast had the energy to keep the audience laughing from beginning to end. One particularly amusing character was the butler named Underling (Jack Cackley). Cackley kept up a consistently sullen demeanor that made his biting one-liners even more snappy. His eventual romance with the ditzy Mrs.Tottendale (Gwenyth Covington) showed that Cackley could add emotional depth to his character without sacrificing any comedic value. While mostly comedic, “The Drowsy Chaperone” has some serious moments that are thought-provoking for the audience. The performers at Wakefield did a superb job of honoring the serious moments while also keeping the energy and hilarity of an old-fashioned Broadway show.
Leah Glicker, James Madison High School
Submitted for publication to The Chieftain
In modern society, there is often a nostalgic love for the past. People look wistfully to a lost golden age, losing themselves in music films, and shows lost to the sands of time. Such is the story of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, put on by Wakefield High School. The cast and crew worked together to pull off a show that was wonderfully entertaining and reminiscent of the roaring twenties. The Drowsy Chaperone debuted on Broadway in May 2006, earning 5 Tony Awards during its run. The book is by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and presents the comical story of a middle aged, disillusioned man sitting in his living room and wishing for happier times. When he puts on his favorite record, the music from a low budget 1920’s show called The Drowsy Chaperone, the story comes to life in front of him as he narrates along. The audience watches as the man’s own relationship with the show changes, and it becomes clear that his own story intertwines with the characters’ in a surprising way. For a comedy based in the 1920’s, a lot of caricatures and overacting was necessary to pull off the plot, and this cast handled it with ease. In the role of show-girl turned housewife, Samantha Rios showed off stellar vocals and an amazingly high level of energy. Her counterpart and love interest onstage, Robert, was played by Garrett Rinker, whose constant commitment to his character was impressive. Xavier Molina played Aldolpho, the “stereotyped Latin lover,” whose spot-on accent, hilarious comedic timing, and stellar delivery of the song “I am Aldolpho,” had the audience in stitches. Rinker took a small, featured role, and turned his moments onstage into the best of the show. Leading the cast in the role of Man In Chair, Ethan Chow brought amazing realism, comedy, and age to a character that often comes off quite plain, and created a beautiful emotional build as the story went on, bringing the audience to realize that his own backstory was a bit more heartbreaking than he first wanted to admit. In all, the cast worked wonderfully together to deliver high energy numbers and cohesive group moments that really added to the Broadway stereotype of a show. Many technical elements were used to pull off the “Show-within-a-show” style. The lights, designed by Amanda Bloom, were dynamic and moved quickly to shift back and forth between the Man In Chair and the show the man’s watching. The set, designed by the Wakefield Set Crew, was full of thoughtful details and accents, everything set perfectly within the time period. Set changes were simple, with few pieces moving on and off to represent new locations, which was remarkably effective and made good use of the space. In all, Wakefield’s The Drowsy Chaperone, was a night of rousing entertainment from the Roaring Twenties, with comedy and energy that truly represents what a great night of theatre can be.
Emma Shacochis, Oakton High School
Submitted for publication to The Chieftain
Wedding bells will ring, wedding bells will chime – if the clueless groom, flaky bride, and her drowsy chaperone can get down the aisle! Prepare to tap your toes and stumble along with Wakefield High School’s infectiously joyful “The Drowsy Chaperone”! “The Drowsy Chaperone”, with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, debuted on Broadway in 2006, where it collected five Tony Awards, including Best Score and Best Book. The musical comedy centers around the asocial Man in Chair, who plays himself the record of his favorite show, the “The Drowsy Chaperone” – a fictional jazz-age musical comedy, full of “mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding” – which comes to life in his apartment as he listens. As the Man in Chair, Ethan Chow is wonderful. As he lip-syncs and even dances along to his beloved record, Chow humorously delivers each of the Man’s riffs and quips about the show. Chow blends his comedic observations with the Man’s emotional backstory, proving winningly sentimental as he analyzes whether it’s better to “live or leave”. Chow’s thoughtful performance makes his constant onstage presence a very welcome one. In the glittering land of “The Drowsy Chaperone”, the actors portray their satirical caricatures magnificently. Spotlight-loving Janet Van De Graaff, the bride who intends to give up her life onstage for marriage, is played by Samantha Rios. In the upbeat number “Show Off”, Rios cartwheels, poses, and belts, all while modestly insisting she doesn’t want to be the center of attention anymore. Rios maintains her bold voice and sweet chemistry with fiance Robert Martin (Garrett Rinker) throughout the show, especially in their charming duet, “Accident Waiting to Happen”. As Robert, Rinker is charismatic as his blissfully naive bridegroom, shining in his fantastic, flashy tap-dance number, “Cold Feets”. Among the wedding guests, there’s swaggering aviatrix Trix (Retta Laumann), whose powerful voice soars with her plane; the deadpan British butler, Underling (Jack Cackley), who never falters in his impassive expression, even when receiving a faceful of spit-takes; and Xavier Molina’s Aldolpho, the self-declared “King of Romance”. Molina, whose absurd accent and hilarious scenery-chewing brings the house down, shines with a stellar voice in “I Am Aldolpho”, a self-centered song of seduction. And of course, there’s the eponymous character, the Drowsy Chaperone, played brilliantly by Belle Perkins. Unfaltered by Prohibition, Perkin’s witty delivery is the only thing dry about her character – “Where’s the bar?” she asks immediately upon arrival – and her strong, rousing voice is beautiful in “As We Stumble Along”. Never has such an ensemble been so energetic and delightful – adorned in divine 1920s costumes, the company executes the exuberant choreography well, especially in their terrific number “Toledo Surprise”. The company is comically gifted as well, landing every joke; they make great use of physical comedy as well, repeating their motions over and over when the record skips. The Man in Chair’s spacious apartment set (Conrad Burns, et al.) is greatly versatile for the musical’s movable set pieces, as well as providing an efficient and hysterical entrance for the wedding guests via a refrigerator door. The old-fashioned props (Anna Disisto-Ercolani, et al.) are notable as well, particularly Trix’s wearable airplane. Living up to their name, the Not-So-Drowsy Pit Orchestra performs each tune with jazzy zeal. There are no accidents waiting to happen onstage at Wakefield High School – the enamoring, enthusiastic cast make “The Drowsy Chaperone” a marvelous musical comedy deserving of being shown off!