UMMTA has always strived to produce high-quality productions and stellar performances in some attempt to mend the stereotypical bridge between the ‘university musical’ and amateur theatre. This time, they have truly exceeded all expectations with their adaptation of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’. If you’re unfamiliar, which I find highly doubtful considering the show’s popularity, the premise is that of the typical musical within a musical scenario: a quippy musical fanatic known only as The Man in the Chair plays the record of his favourite musical, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’as he sips on brandy nostalgically. The audience is transported back to the 1920s as ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ plays out in the homely constraints of The Man in the Chair’s apartment, and, as the tagline states: ‘Mix-Ups, Mayhem and a Gay Wedding’ ensues.
From the moment I entered Union House Theatre, the most impressive component of the show had already made itself abundantly clear. The set is something to be envied by amateurs and professionals alike, and honestly had me wondering where the budget to create such a masterpiece had been scrounged. Set designers Milla Gentil and Harriet Wing should be more than commended for their ingenious, versatile design filled with hidden treasures to delight the unsuspecting audience, from a fridge doubling as a door to sentient lights. I thoroughly hope their talents become a staple of UMMTA’s shows or other productions in the future! The show only suffered from a few disappointing aspects, namely being that there were many instances of microphones crackling, most noticeably during dance routines – a criticism which was noted on opening night yet has not been resolved, but is also a common problem of Union House. And although the ensemble gave well-rehearsed and thought out performances, I did not particularly see where their hard work was to be appreciated in a show that, really, should not include an ensemble cast.
All lead performances were strong, but special mention goes to Spencer Hines as the Man in The Chair. Despite the character calling for an air of aged grace, Hines manages to own the stage.He delivers every line with just the right dose of healthy cynicism expected of a character twice his age and doesn’t let a single wry sentence’s importance slip in between the bustle of scenes. Kara Sims showcases great vocal ability and energy in her interpretation of Janet Van De Graaf, but sometimes lacks contrast in tone. It is clear she is a dancer at heart and absolutely shines when detailed choreography comes into play. The Drowsy Chaperone herself, played by Grace Haslinghouse, stuns the audience with her rich soaring voice and earns some great laughs with her subtle comic timing. Daniel Czech portrays the pompous Aldopho with a perfect pantomime-esque delivery, leaving the children in front of me bouncing in their seats every time he and his slippery cane entered. Amid all of the solid performers displayed in this show, Tom Phyland and Lachlan Bolzt should dually be commended for their routine in ‘Cold Feets’, in which a tap-battle of sorts occurs and both performers give a very entertaining effort. I would be interested to know if either have ever received tap training before, because if not well bloody done!
Overall, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ has to be one of UMMTA’s highest-quality shows ever produced. You would be missing out on a wonderful night of family-friendly theatre if you were not to book a ticket and sneak in before it closes this week!
UMMTA’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone runs from the 4-12th of May at the Union Theatre.