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‘Drowsy Chaperone’ hits the stage

Waupaca Community Theatre is performing “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a musical comedy of the Jazz Age. It is directed by Amy Holterman. The Drosy Chaperone is played by Jenny Lewis, on right, and Janet Van De Graaf is played by Hannah Holterman. James Card Photo

Musical comedy coming to Waupaca

By James Card

Waupaca Community Theatre is tackling an ambitious musical comedy this summer.

The winner of five Tony Awards, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 29, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3-5, at the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center.

Matinee performances will be at 2 p.m. Sundays, July 30 and Aug. 6.

“The Drowsey chaperone” opens with a character known only as “Man in Chair.” Played by John Hammond, he sits in his 1990s New York City apartment and mourns the end of the Jazz Age. He plays an LP of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 show, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and the story and actors come to life on stage.

The Man in Chair narrates and comments on the story as it unfolds. It is an ensemble cast and there are 13 leads. The cast is composed of 37 actors.

Amy Holterman is directing the production.

Janet Van De Graaf, played by Hannah Holterman, is a starlet quitting show biz to marry Robert Martin, played by Alex Lederer.

Jenny Lewis plays the Drowsy Chaperone and judging from the martini glass that is constantly in her hand, drowsy is a euphemism for being elegantly sloshed.

“It’s set in the 1920s during the Jazz Era and Prohibition. She’s not drowsy. She’s had a few cocktails. But that’s the joke. It’s a joke within a joke. It’s a spoof of all of the musicals from the 1920s. They are all stock characters. What’s fun is that it’s a musical within a comedy. There is slapstick, vaudeville, spit takes, there’s a buffoon guy, it’s all of the old style comedy from the 1920s,” said Holterman.

There is a moment where Adolpho, a smooth-talking goofball of a ladies’ man played by Tyler Higginson, attempts to seduce the Drowsy Chaperone. This scene is worth the price of admission.

“We’re creating a world where the actors come in and create a world from 1928. They are going to create it with themselves, their costumes and a few little props. There is a garden scene for example. We’re not going to bring in a drop-down garden. So we have actors being Greek statues in the sculpture garden,” said Holterman.

The production includes a full pit orchestra conducted by John Kelley, which is extremely rare for small-town community theater groups. Most just press “play” on a CD player. Waupaca’s musicians are professionals, they are paid for their work, and they rehearse a few times and then nail the score on show night.

“One of the things that I love about Waupaca Community Theatre is they have a live professional orchestra. I don’t know of many community theaters that have a live orchestra. That was why I partly chose this because I love jazz. But it’s the experience of the theater with that live music and he [the Man in Chair] talks about the orchestra and talks about the music. It makes it even more exciting that we have a live orchestra. He actually brings it up in his monologue,” said Holterman.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at the box office or can be purchased online by visiting the Waupaca Community Theatre Facebook page and finding the link for www.onthestage.tickets.

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