Admittedly, as a director first (and an actress, designer, playwright and critic last) from time to time I find it extremely difficult to sit in an audience, not because a show is so dreadfully void of entertainment, but rather because it has so much potential and somehow ends up missing the mark. By like, a fraction of an artistic inch. And, it’s irritating because everyone that’s a part of the production and yes, the audience too, deserves better. It was all in reach but, West Valley Light Opera’s drowsy Chaperone somehow couldn’t quite nail the landing.
Truly, the cast was one of the most talented and potential-possessing casts I’ve seen at this theatre and they seemed well matched to the material, which is indeed clever and entertaining. But, despite the show and the cast, this production was painfully inconsistent. I’m hard pressed to recall any actor that could claim that triple threat crown, a status that many of these roles really require. As much as I’d like to explain my feelings of disappointment by placing blame, I can’t even do that, for no one aspect failed the show so epically and no one person or choice could claim responsibility for lowering the bar. Rather, I found that scene after scene I was presented with one little thing or another that upstaged the action, and not in the comically predictable and acceptable way.
For example, a beautiful song sung note perfect with gorgeous tone, devastated by a series of stray orchestra notes. A tremendous comic moment interrupted by poor timing of another actor. Very respectable choreography well suited to the skills of the dancers but, one side of the stage completely ignoring their spacing. A fantastically acted scene followed by a pitchy solo that couldn’t end soon enough. A grand opening number plagued with sound and mic issues. A failed bit of comic business that detracted from an otherwise entertaining production number. You get my point…the whole night was Newtonian, for every action their was an equal and opposite reaction.
But, don’t misunderstand my criticisms. I don’t point out the negatives because the show sucked. On the contrary, if the show sucked I wouldn’t bother getting upset. If the show were doomed I couldn’t care less. My stress and nitpicking stems more out of frustration as it seemed that this show COULD have been REALLY good if the stars had just aligned a bit…better. Just a tweak here or there. But, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, there were many enjoyable moments, isolated or interrupted as they may have been.
One of the highlights was certainly the set. Just when you thought there was nothing else left up the set design sleeve an unexpected reveal delighted. And, then there is the actual show. The premise as I alluded to earlier is fun, silly, and definitely satirical. If you have a theatre background and are familiar with musicals in general, you’ll enjoy it on an entirely different level. Laughs, yes. Smiles, yes. Chemistry, yes. Winner? I wish, but not quite.
Ultimately what we have here is approximately 120 minutes of musical comedy with some solid humor and loads of talent on stage that takes you on a roller coaster of theatrical highs and lows. It’s a pleasant community effort and though it could have been a 4 or even a 4 1/2, it will have to be satisfied with 3 1/2 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for never completely finding its creative stride. The Drowsy Chaperone plays through March 31st at the Saratoga Civic Theatre.