“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a tale in two genres, both lively musical and parody. Beyond its upbeat song-and-dance numbers—which could stand on their own for aficionados of musical theatre—the show’s narrator, identified as Man in Chair, makes continuous satirical observations on the conventions of the classic 1920s American musical comedy.
The show debuted in 1998 in Toronto, has had many successful runs that included Broadway and London, and won five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards. On June 10, the Damascus Theatre Company (DTC) brings it to the Arts Barn stage for a three-weekend run.
Among the main reasons DTC chose “Chaperone” is its versatility, said executive producer Carol Boyle, who has been with DTC in various capacities—from parent volunteer to costumer to grants and fundraising committee chair to board vice president—since 2005. Board members, she said, realized the show offered an opportunity “for members of our company to showcase their talent in a variety of ways. The (16-member) cast is incredibly talented—they sing, they dance, they come together on stage with remarkable chemistry and an affability that is contagious.”
The production staff has been enthusiastic, Boyle added, having created “a dynamic set, props, costumes, choreography, etc., that we believe really will transport our audiences just as the show intends to do.” Their “fun” collaborations have focused on “things like how a refrigerator will be an entrance/exit door, the best way to create an airplane out of existing set pieces, and how to make sure Janet (one of the characters) gets into and out of five different costumes during one song all while singing, juggling, and dancing.”
Boyle credited DTC Director and Board Member Kristina Friedgen with having “submitted a fantastic proposal to put on this show that had our entire board and technical staff excited about the production from the start.” Boyle and Friedgen work together at DTC as well as at the Good Counsel Theatre Company, where Boyle is associate producer and Friedgen is director and choreographer. (Friedgen also teaches theater at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School.) Having observed Friedgen’s talents both on stage and as a director, Boyle said, “I was personally very excited to see how she would approach this modern and very funny tribute to the Jazz Age shows of the 1920s.”
When Friedgen, a Sherwood High School alumna who earned a degree in theatre from the University of Maryland in 2008, realized she missed performing, she auditioned for and got a role in DTC’s 2012 production of “My Favorite Year.” She subsequently performed in two more DTC productions.
“Chaperone” is the first show Friedgen is directing for DTC. The Arts Barn’s “smaller, intimate venue poses some challenges,” she acknowledged. Having mounted shows in a variety of settings for Good Counsel—from the rented Sandy Spring Friends School theater to her black box classroom that seats 70 and Good Counsel’s gym that seats 400—as well as serving as assistant director at Olney, Round House, Adventure and Signature theatres, she was up to the task. At the Arts Barn, Friedgen opted for “free range of space” by “making the whole theater the Man in Chair’s apartment.” About three weeks prior to the run, she was “approaching home stretch,” using rehearsal times to focus on “fine-tuning, refining the physical comedy and really getting into the characters.”
Actress Liz Weber plays the title role in “Chaperone.” The Gaithersburg resident, who studied classical music at The Catholic University (“a long time ago”), went on to perform in area dinner theaters and subsequently to host “Sunday Showtunes” on Clear Channel radio. Since 2001, Weber has taken on mostly character parts in community theater until getting her first “older ingénue role” in DTC’s 2012 production of “Meet Me in St. Louis.” A “dream role” in DTC’s 2014 “A Little Night Music” followed, she said, “and now, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ another dream role.”
Playing the title role is “a fair amount of pressure,” Weber said. “The character is larger than life, completely cynical and basically a drunk. It involves speaking, singing and dancing as well as a fair amount of physicality in my number with Adolpho, which has given me a few bruises.”
It sounds like an abundance of music, movement and possibly even mayhem will be going on in the intimate space of the Arts Barn. Be advised, cautioned Friedgen, “No joke is too cheap for this play.”
“The Drowsy Chaperone” will be on the Arts Barn stage from June 10 to 26. Shows start at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $22, $12 for ages 14 and younger. This show is recommended for ages 12 and older. For tickets and information, call 301-258-6394 or visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov.