After performing a very solemn, serious play this fall, the young actors at Needham High School will be changing gears for their spring production, bringing the high-energy, hilarious musical-within-a-musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” to the local stage this weekend.
The musical will be performed Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of Newman Elementary School. Tickets are on sale now for $15 through the NHS Fine and Performing Arts office and will also be available at the door.
“It’s really fun. There’s nothing sad about it,” NHS senior Eva Weintraub said of the musical. “It’s all really good humor and a lot of in-your-face great fun. There’s a lot of dancing and a lot of ensemble numbers.”
Weintrab plays Mrs. Tottendale, a woman who is hosting the wedding that is central to the fictional 1928 musical comedy, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“The wedding is taking place at her house and she’s kind of going insane. She’s losing her mind a little bit,” Weintrab said of her character. “She can never remember anything and she’s super all over the place, but she’s also always really happy and really excited about everything.”
While much of the musical focuses on the wedding of starlet Janet van de Graaff (played by Annie Healy) to Robert Martin (played by Noah Teplin), the show actually takes place in the mind and apartment of unnamed musical buff Man in Chair, who talks to the audience throughout the show as he shares a record of his favorite musical.
“My character is kind of the narrator of the ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ musical,” explained NHS senior David Libbey, who plays The Man. “The show takes place in his apartment. He’s having a bad day, so he decides to listen to his favorite musical, which is ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.' When the record is going, he pauses it to make little notes about the actors, and he gets really aggravated when the telephone rings because it ruins the moment. Overall, he’s just trying to listen to something that will make his day a little brighter.”
The show literally comes alive in The Man’s apartment, with actors springing out of closets and appliances as the record plays through the show. When the record skips or is paused, the characters skip or pause as well.
For Libbey, one of the biggest challenges in his role is being on stage for most of the entire show.
“There’s like 2, 2 1/2 minutes tops when I’m not on stage, so even when I’m not acting I really have to be paying attention to what I’m doing because I’m supposed to be listening to the show and to be really involved with it,” he said.
"The Drowsy Chaperone" record tells the story of a starlet who is ready to leave the stage for love, with a variety of colorful characters who make her big day all the more interesting, including a pair of pastry chef gangsters (played by Josh Margolis and Scott Groux) and a producer (played by Charles Winston)—all of whom who want the bride-to-be to return to the stage—and her chaperone (the “Drowsy” one, played by Kat Ward) who is not doing the best job of keeping the bride from seeing the groom before the right moment.
Though it’s set in the 1920s, the show is pretty new as far as musicals go, debuting on Broadway about six years ago, according to director Alison Sherman.
“It was a really good choice this year because the kids were interested in a newer, more contemporary-feeling show, and it’s actually really hard to find contemporary musicals,” she said.
The show features many named characters as well as a strong ensemble cast.
“There is so much dancing. They’re always on stage doing something. It’s a great experience for everyone up there,” Sherman said.
To help with the dancing, Sherman recruited UMass Amherst dance grad Bekah Blair, who designed the choregraphy and has been busy teaching the students how to bring the show’s many dance numbers to life.
“She’s been a great match for us,” Sherman said of Blair.
In addition, the school's technical crew has been busy building the set and finding pieces, such as an actual stove and refrigerator, to make The Man’s apartment as realistic as possible. Sherman is also hoping to deliver a rather large and unusual set piece to the stage by opening night if all goes well (a surprise for those who go to see the show).
Because of ongoing renovations and the placement of modular classrooms at Newman Elementary School, there will be limited parking for musical-goers this weekend. Those who purchase advance tickets will either be given a pass to park at the school (for those who carpool) or asked to park in a satellite location and will be bused in. Anyone who wants to buy tickets at the door should take note of the limited parking and plan accordingly.
For more information, call the NHS Fine and Performing Arts Department at 781-455-0800 ext. 2440.