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Theater review: ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ perfect choice for new SLOC venue

Theater review: ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ perfect choice for new SLOC venue

When you go to “The Drowsy Chaperone,” as you must, you’ll be treated to a terrific show in handsome

When you go to “The Drowsy Chaperone,” as you must, you’ll be treated to a terrific show in handsome new digs.

A brief ceremony before Friday night’s curtain applauded the efforts of those who have helped rehab the old St. John the Baptist Church in time for SLOC’s third offering of the year. The salute was completely justified: phase one is state of the art.

It’s appropriate that this 2006 Tony Award-winning musical (best book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, and best music/lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison) is the initial offering on Franklin Street. The piece is an affectionate — and extremely funny — tribute to the genre of the musical itself, warts and all.

The clever premise finds Man in Chair (Richard Michael Roe) opining to us from his living room about the beauties of his oft-played 1928 recording of an obscure musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.” As he talks, the musical comes to life in his apartment.

It’s a rather silly story about a stage star, Janet Van De Graaff (Heather D’Arcy), who is on the verge of throwing away her career for the love of a wealthy man, Robert (Shawn R. Morgan). Trouble is, her producer, Feldzieg (Peter Belenchia), can’t afford to have her leave show biz, so he tries to scuttle the wedding.

‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. March 3-5, and 2 p.m., March 6

HOW MUCH: $28-$18

MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378 or www.sloctheater.org

All the stereotypes of old-fashioned musicals make an appearance: gangsters (Remy LaFargue and Bill Douglas); a ditsy blonde dying to get into the act (Christine Marcella); Robert’s tap-dancing pal (Evan Davis Russell); an aviatrix (Elisa Verb) who swoops down in her biplane to save the day; Janet’s dotty wedding hostess (Carol Jones) and her put-upon butler (Jeffrey P. Hocking); a wacky Latin seducer, Adolpho (Michael Lotano), hired to spoil the nuptials; and the Drowsy Chaperone herself (Karen Kolterman), an inebriate whose eye is on the bottle, not the bride. And, oh, yes, a half dozen others cavorting in the chorus.

These performers have been trained to a fare-thee-well by musical director Frank R. Leavitt and choreographer Melissa Lacijan. Connie Rowe Rauhauser’s costumes are bold and bright. The production crew and producers Michael McDermott and Marcia Lenehan have spared no expense or squandered an iota of inspiration. And director/set designer Michael C. Mensching is, well, “wizard” comes to mind.

Highlights? “As We Stumble Along,” showcasing the singing and acting talents of Kolterman, D’Arcy, and company; “Accident Waiting to Happen,” with D’Arcy and Morgan (he on roller skates, blindfolded and singing!); “Adolpho,” featuring Lotano, the evening’s clown prince, and Kolterman; and “Love Is Always Lovely,” with a sparkling turn by Jones and Hocking. But the joy of performing is everywhere evident.

Roe? This fine actor has outdone himself here. Man in Chair is our passionate professor of the scratchy vinyl sounds of make believe, yet as the music lesson continues, we begin to hear the scratchy sounds of his own life: wry and wounded. Roe’s relationship with the audience is especially pitch-perfect, but his whole performance is delivered from the inside out, equal parts humor and pathos.

It’s charming stuff, folks, and superbly delivered. See it.

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