Review: 'The Drowsy Chaperone' by Western Connecticut State University

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Tottendale: Just like long ago when Romeo loved Juliet
Love is always lovely in the end
Underling: Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, Madam.
Tottendale: Oh, I never read reviews.

Danbury, CT - The Western Connecticut State University Department of Theatre Arts is presenting their fabulous production of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ through Nov. 20 at the spectacular Visual and Performing Arts Center on the Westside Campus in Danbury. 

This “musical within a comedy” features a fun musical score by Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert with a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. This production is performed by a talented cast of WCSU students that are directed by Tim Howard, assistant professor/coordinator of Musical Theatre at the university, who also did the musical staging for the show. The director has brought out the broad comedy of this parody of an old-fashioned 1920’s musical presented with the running wry commentary of the man in the chair. I loved the choices that Mr. Howard made with the curtain call, making for a very strong finish. Noah Todd served as assistant director and a slew of other students did what needed to be done with the set, lighting, sound, paint, props, costumes, orchestra and management to get this rather large musical shining on their stage.

So what was great about it? The set designed by Professor Elizabeth Popiel was both beautiful and functional and yes, the chandeliers were changed seamlessly and there were entrances through a large cabinet. The lighting designed by Scott Cally was a blessing for every scene. The costumes were period perfect, lush and executed well by costume designer Sharon Sobel. Choreography by Elizabeth Parkinson and Scott Wise added so much joy to the production. The musicians that I could see in the 13-person pit looked to be college-aged, but they sounded like professionals under the direction of Howard Kilik. 

The talent of every single member of the cast was evident and most of the principals had an understudy listed for them in the program. It is always a treat to see up and coming actors/singers/dancers that have such bright futures and WCSU is certainly the place where they gather to prepare for their careers in theatre.  

I don’t know why I didn’t remember that the always amazing Jillian Caillouette is attending WCSU, but she is in fact currently a sophomore in the Musical Theatre Program. She was perfectly cast in the Sutton Foster role of Janet van de Graaff and it is a pleasure to hear this actress sing; “Show Off” was a highlight of her performance. 

Sophomore Ryan J. Taylor (‘The Snow Queen,’ ‘Cat in the Hat’) was funny and endearing in the role of the commentating but unnamed “Man in  Chair.” WCSU junior and Amity grad Shaylen Harger was a riot in the title role of the chaperone of Janet who never refuses alcohol in this era of prohibition. 

Junior TJ Swetz was the adoring if dimwitted groom Robert Martin and as such he was required to roller skate and tap dance, both of which he pulled off. Sophomore Nathan Clift played George with great comic timing, while Sergio Mandujano was a spectacularly broad Adolpho. 

It was another treat to see the adorable WCSU senior Lauren Bell again and she carried off the role of the doddering Mrs. Tottendale; she never broke character and was simply wonderful. Freshman Tyler Gallaher served her as her butler named Underling. Eric McKinley, a senior from Prospect, was convincing as Feldzieg. 

Senior Megan O’Callaghan was a riot in the role of Kitty and nailed her accent. Junior Saige Bryan was commanding as Trix the Aviatrix and sophomore Joseph Calabrese had a brief moment in the spotlight as the building superintendent. 

The team of seniors Manuel Torres and Jared Starkey as gangster/pastry chefs kept us laughing. In the ensemble were sophomore from Wolcott Thomas Bergamo, freshman Colin Gallaher, senior Vanessa Knowlton, junior Jaclyn Mercer, Musicals at Richter veteran Jessica Schwartz, freshman Michael Katz, the lovely Lexi Tobin and sophomore Joelle Tshudy. 

‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is presented without intermission. The WCSU students that filled the audience at the preview I attended could not have been more supportive of their classmates, with the single exception of the one sitting next to me. This young woman obviously did not want to be there; she talked to her companion long after the show began, dropped her program on me twice, texted in the dark, never clapped her hands or cracked a smile, even once. Thankfully the rest of the students in attendance managed to properly attend and enjoy this wonderfully professional performance. Rant over. 

Photos by Peggy Stewart