By Dee Jae Cox
In theater the ‘fourth wall’ is an invisible boundary that separates the actors from the audience. While of course the audience can see through this wall, it is a given that the actors can’t and therefore remain encased in their fictional world. It’s definitely not the norm for the fourth wall to be broken and for performers to speak directly to the audience, but on the occasion that it happens, it can make for some very interesting theater.
Such is the case with Desert Theatreworks latest production, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ a 1998 multi Tony Award wining show tagged as “A Musical Within a Comedy.” The Drowsy Chaperone, with Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, is a story inside of a story with the narrator breaking the forth wall and telling the audience the tale of his favorite 1920’s Broadway show.
The ‘Man in the Chair,’ performed wonderfully by comedic actor Timm McBride, plays his record, yes a record, from this fictional 1920’s musical. As the music plays, the scenes from the show appear in his apartment and he breaks down each performance with insights on the actors, their personal lives and the story unfolding in his fantasy. McBride is so likeable in this role. His charm and infectious personality takes hold of the Audience and brings them directly into his living room. It’s a perfect example of how breaking the fourth wall should play out in transporting the audience along for a fun and fantastical journey.
The fictional ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ features a talented and engaging cast. Adina Lawson as Kitty was hysterically funny in her role of the wannabe Leading lady. Coco Girelli as Janet Van De Graff and Ryan Holmes as Robert Martin are charming and beautiful as the bride and groom who must overcome the comical forces around them that are trying to prevent their marriage. Allen Jensen is wonderful as Aldopho, the ladies man caught up in the exaggerated efforts to prevent the nuptials. Marjory Lewis as Mrs. Tottendale and her companion, Underling, performed by Steven Ciceron, Angus Feath as George, Arnie Kleban as Feldzieg and Karen Schmitt as the intoxicated, drousy chaperone, all bring talent and fun to this remarkable cast. Throw in a couple of 1920’s style gangsters, Marke Demry and Ed Lefkowitz along with some very talented ensemble players, Daniela Ryan, Alex Updike and Heidi Hapner and one of my favorites, Keisha D as Trix, the Deux ex machine, who flies in to save the day. Mix it all together and you have the makings for a great evening of entertainment.
Lance Phillips-Martinez does a superb job of staging and bringing out the best in this large ensemble cast. Desert Theatreworks presents a very professional production and no doubt Phillips-Martinez is a vital part of that. Big kudos to the very talented Heidi Hapner, who wears multiple hats in this show as choreographer, costumer, hair and make-up artist and wears each hat exceptionally well. Ron Phillips-Martinez set design creates the perfect setting and backdrop for this wonderful production.
If you are looking for a fun night out and wonderful performances from a stellar cast, The Drowsy Chaperone is the show to see. It can be recommended for all ages and is in production at Desert Theatreworks through March 19th at the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, located at 73750 Catalina Way in Palm Desert.
For Reservations: call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com