first night

The Drowsy Chaperone

Tyler Rainford reviews DULOG's latest offering 'The Drowsy Chaperone'


A delightful ‘musical within a comedy,’ ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is set in the apartment of a lonely musical lover who takes the audience on a journey through his favourite (fictional) musical, straight from the glitz and glamour of the 1920s. As the music begins, the show comes to life and the characters of the show-within-a-show appear onstage before our very eyes. DULOG’s latest offering was certainly peppered with magical moments but let off a little less sparkle than one might have hoped.


With a company that consistently dazzles its audiences with an array of exceptional talent, theatrically, musically and technically, it is very difficult for DULOG not to set a bar by which all of their productions are ultimately judged. Nevertheless, to say that I did not enjoy ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ would be utterly absurd, it was just a shame that such a remarkable company has ended up putting something on that seemed somewhat rushed.


Some of the larger musical numbers, such as ‘Fancy Dress’ were strong, but just felt a bit out of step. With such a small space and such a sizeable cast, choreography was a trifle stifled and lacked the panache one might have hoped for. Matters weren’t helped by the consistently questionable mic volume levelling, which meant this reviewer didn’t really hear any of the first few minutes of the song in question despite only being a few rows back. Despite these earlier instances of uncertainty, the actors warmed into their roles over the course of the show.


The strength of this show appeared to lie in some of the more confident members of the cast. Particular mention must go to Jen Bullock in her role as Janet van de Graaf. Her performance was consistently succinct and highly watchable. Bullock’s versatility as an all round actor-singer-dancer extraordinaire was (naturally) brought to the fore during the song ‘Show Off,’ where she succeeded in pulling off particularly tricky dance moves whilst maintaining flawless comic timing.


Ellie Jones as the Person in the Chair also gave a sterling performance. The decision to change the gender of the Man in the Chair to a woman was handled well by Jones who was an engaging and highly entertaining guide throughout. Her convincingly casual physicality was a delightful contrast to the highly stylised and accentuated characters of the musical swarming all around her. So convincing was her portrayal that if it wasn’t for the offstage chatter from her mic pack, I would never have noticed her inability to find her way through the curtain at one point was not intentional.


Sarah Slimani’s Chaperone was a joy to behold every time she walked onstage and was consistently charming and boozy throughout. Charlie Keeble, as ever, was hilarious as the outlandish seducer of souls Aldolpho. Having seen Keeble in comedy roles before, I personally felt he may have been too reliant on the immediate comedy offered by the role and thus he could have pushed Aldolpho’s ridiculousness even further.


There were some notably brilliant double acts hiding amongst the cast, too. Ros Bell and Joe Kelen had some wonderful moments together as Mrs Tottendale and Underling, respectively. Special mention must also be made to the gangsters Meg Osborne and Hanna Khogali who never failed to amuse me in their disguise as simple pastry chefs. Osborne especially commanded attention with her colourful spectrum of expressionate faces and her stooge-like physicality to match.


Despite a few minor technical hitches, the Tech Team must certainly be applauded for their tireless efforts to bring the show into light. Kacey Courtney and Laurence Stanley must be commended for stepping in at the last minute to keep the show afloat.


Liz Schofield and Angus Macnaughton have succeeded in creating a charming piece of theatre, which is all the more impressive when you consider it’s their first time directing and musical directing, respectively. The first night audience of under twenty (it certainly deserves more) was decidedly generous and appreciative of their efforts, even if I’m a little tougher to convince. I’m sure with a little more polish and a bit more time DULOG’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ has potential to be up there with the best of them. 

5 March 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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