Gangsters, movie stars, and Latin lovers — what else would you expect from a Prohibition-era musical? The Penn State Thespians tackle it all with their performance of the beloved musical “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
The show begins with a spotlight on a woman in a chair. Through her monologue, we find her to be a present-day musical theater fanatic eager to share her favorite Broadway musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” with the world.
Through the speaker of her record player, a silly story of 1920s theatrical life unfolds. It tells the tale of a spoiled Broadway starlet recently engaged to a well-to-do oil-man and the humorous events leading up to their wedding.
Throughout the course of the musical, the full cast of characters gets mixed up with incompetent gangsters, bootlegged liquor and false narratives. Pranks are pulled and hi-jinks occur, leaving the narrator to piece together the missing links for her audience.
Penn State senior and director Julie Whelan plays an integral part in helping the show come to life. She’s no newbie to directing, either, having directed No Refund Theatre’s productions of “Waiting for Godot” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
Despite the fact that it’s often difficult to coordinate times that work for everyone’s busy schedules, Whelan feels this cast was especially committed to making things work.
“It was clear, with this show, that people were dedicated and ready to work and that’s so important. If you want a show to go off without a hitch, the cast needs to be dedicated. And they were with this show, so that was great,” Whelan said.
“This show has a lot of elements. There’s a lot of dancing, a lot of singing, a lot of acting, and they’re all equally demanding. It’s a triple threat. So it was amazing to find a cast that would work as hard as they did to perfect that trifecta.”
Lauren Weber stars as the woman in the chair. Though Weber is at Penn State to pursue a degree in psychology and business, she went to a high school for the performing arts, where she could focus on acting. But even for a seasoned actor such as herself, Weber faced some problems embracing her role.
“In our adaptation, I play the lady in the chair, but in the original screenplay, its the man in the chair. So this was the first time that I gender bent anything,” Weber said. “It was a fun, new challenge for me.”
For Whelan, the musical is more than just a fun little storyline with some music attached. It’s about letting go.
“The whole musical just goes to show that though life can be super serious sometimes, it’s important to have fun through it all. There will always be parts that you don’t like so much, or you wish you could change, but the point is to keep smiling no matter what,” she said.
Despite the challenges both actor and director faced in putting the show together, the whole thing came together quite nicely. It had me laughing at some of the more comedic parts and getting teary-eyed at the dramatic flairs. The passion from both the cast and crew was something special that made the whole musical simply spectacular.
Performances will take place in Schwab Auditorium today, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a 1:30 p.m. Saturday matinee as well. Tickets can be reserved in advance here but must be paid for at the door. Tickets are $4.98 for students, $4.99 for children under 12, and $12 for community members.