Friday night I had a treat, and I highly recommend it to you. I took myself to the theater. No, not to a movie, but to see The Vincentian Academy’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
Director Carissa Zozos (read our interview with her from yesterday here) brings this production, based on the 2006 Broadway musical, to life at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Temple (3579 Masonic Way, off Cemetery Lane). Upon arrival, the lobby was full of energetic greetings- groups of chattering students intermingled with parents and community members bantering animatedly. I purchased my ticket in advance online, and headed into the auditorium, where the mood was already set with 1920’s jazz music.
The student orchestra was excellent. From the first strains of the Overture, I was completely transported. The set design (by Pittsburgh scenic designer Nicholas Doyle) is also top-notch. Flipping through my Playbill, I am reminded that Vincentian Academy is participating in the 2020 Gene Kelly Awards. If you grew up on two-piano and painted plywood school musicals (✋… we were great!), this is a totally different playing field. The ensemble cast numbers are lively, and the costume department appears to have had a shopping spree at Unique Vintage (every sequin makes me want to do the same).
In this play-within-a-play, our narrator is Man In Chair, played by freshman Luca Assandri. He’s in a ‘blue’ mood and just wants to listen to his favorite old musicals. Assandri plays the character with apologetic anxious energy, balancing a reverence for his recording of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ with the ability to point out the ridiculous (I think anyone who grew up on old cast albums is familiar with this challenge).
Our Drowsy Chaperone is played by another outstanding freshman (Louisa Jen) while her charge, stage starlet Janet Van DeGraff is played with flair by senior Rileigh Very. The ladies tackle their character’s standout numbers with gusto (in ‘Show Off’ and ‘As We Stumble Along’, respectively). My favorite moments involved the broadly comedic Latin Lothario, Aldolpho (played by senior Wray Jones). Jones and Jen play off each other beautifully in the hysterically self-centered ‘Aldolpho’, and in the replays of Man In Chair’s favorite moment toward the end of Act 2.
This show has a bit of everything: a tap number with senior Matthew Soller and sophomore Alex Briercheck, a ditzy wannabe starlet played by junior Julia Kampas, a (comedic) homage to love from senior Madeline Schreiber and her long-suffering Underling (freshman Anthony Arshoun). Like any good show, this is escapism, but it’s smart escapism that slyly winks at its source material while creating something new.
This production reminds me that high school musicals are about so much more than giving creative students a challenge. They’re also about bringing theater to the community, giving people the opportunity to see something they may not have seen before (or to revisit an old favorite). This close to Pittsburgh, we’re lucky to have access to a wealth of good performance options, but let’s not forget to check out the next generation of emerging artists in our own backyards. They are perfectly capable of providing you with an exciting evening out. No chaperone required.
Upcoming Showtimes: February 22 at 7:30 PM February 23 at 2:00 PM February 28 at 7:30 PM February 29 at 7:30 PM Tickets may be purchased online, or at the door.