A return to the stage was never in doubt for Lesley O’Donnell, and playing the title character in “The Drowsy Chaperone” for Home Made Theater over the next three weekends was a role just too good to pass up.
“I really missed the stage, and this show is hilarious,” said O’Donnell, a 2000 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate who performed in national tours of “Camelot” in 2007 and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” in 2008. “The character is ridiculous, way over the top, and I thought this would be a fun way to get my acting bug reignited.”
The winner of five Tonys, “The Drowsy Chaperone” was the brainchild of Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert (the music) and Bob Martin and Don McKellar (the book). It debuted on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for 13 Tonys, losing out in the Best Musical category to “Jersey Boys.”
Things are played out in the mind of “The Man in Chair,” a Broadway musical fanatic who is suffering from some undisclosed mental illness. J.J. Buechner is “The Man in Chair,” and the show opens with him listening to a recording of a 1928 musical comedy named “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Suddenly he is transferred into the musical, conjuring up characters and song and dance numbers in his small dingy apartment.
Dawn Oesch is directing the Home Made production. O’Donnell and Buechner are joined in the cast by Shawn Morgan as Adolpho, Richard Jones as Robert Martin, and Christine Meglino as Janet Van De Graaf.
’The Drowsy Chaperone’ and ’Guys and Dolls’
‘The Drowsy Chaperone’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Saratoga State Park
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Oct. 27; performance times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays (no matinee this Sunday)
HOW MUCH: $29-$26
MORE INFO: 587-4427 or www.homemadetheater.org
‘Guys and Dolls’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Oct. 20; performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378 or sloctheater.org
O’Donnell began acting in school plays at BH-BL, and while this is her first production at Home Made Theater, it’s not her first experience with the Saratoga troupe.
“When I was about 10 I auditioned for ‘Gypsy,’ but I didn’t get it,” she said.
The rejection didn’t slow her down at all. She kept on performing throughout her high school days, and went to the Rome School of Music at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. After finishing up there, she immediately headed to New York City.
“I got my bachelor’s in musical theater and went to New York to work as an actor,” she said. “I loved the gypsy lifestyle, and it was great getting two national tours, but after a while I wanted some semblance of a normal family life.”
O’Donnell, who played Mrs. Eynsford-Hill in the 2003 Park Playhouse production of “My Fair Lady,” got married and returned to the area in 2008 to perform in the ensemble in “Carousel” at the Cohoes Music Hall.
“The show at Cohoes brought me back here,” said O’Donnell. “I auditioned for it in New York because my roommate had signed me up for it, and just by chance the show happened to be up here. But I was happy to come up. My family’s here, my husband’s family is here.”
O’Donnell, who is expecting her first child next year, is currently working at Rock School Music Academy in Clifton Park, giving vocal lessons.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s wonderful sharing music with other people who love music and want to pursue singing.
As for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” O’Donnell said it is a delight to be able to put her own stamp on one of Broadway’s most iconic characters.
“She’s drowsy, but to put it bluntly she’s a bit drunk,” said O’Donnell, who credits former BH-BL teachers Heather Baird and Anthony Chirico, now deceased, for their inspiration. “My character’s main task is to keep the bride from seeing the groom before the wedding night, and she fails miserably at that. It’s a joke that she’s ‘drowsy.’ What she really is is tipsy.”
At SLOC: ‘Guys and DOLLS’
Also opening this weekend is the Schenectady Light Opera Company production of “Guys And Dolls,” which won five Tonys when it was first produced in New York in 1950. It was revived five times on Broadway, and has been done four times at SLOC. Gioia Ottaviano, who produced SLOC’s first version in 1963, was invited to serve as an honorary member of the audition team for the current production.
Set in New York’s Time Square in the early 1950s, “Guys and Dolls” is being directed by Sev Moro and stars Andrew Elder as Sky Masterson, Maggie Becker as Sarah Brown, Michael Bellotti as Nathan Detroit and Laura Tortorici-Malatesta as Miss Adelaide.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]