The Not so Drowsy Chaperone

By Jim Buckley

Emma Robins (center) plays Janet Van DeGraaff, the somewhat reluctant bride-to-be in the SBHS production of The Drowsy Chaperone; curiously, there really is/was a Janet Van DeGraaff: it is the real name of Bob Martin’s then wife-to-be and for whom the play was created as a wedding gift (or at least a bachelor party gift) 

Emma Robins (center) plays Janet Van DeGraaff, the somewhat reluctant bride-to-be in the SBHS production of The Drowsy Chaperone; curiously, there really is/was a Janet Van DeGraaff: it is the real name of Bob Martin’s then wife-to-be and for whom the play was created as a wedding gift (or at least a bachelor party gift) 

You have no excuse for not catching the Santa Barbara High School production of the The Drowsy Chaperone; the Otto Layman directed Broadway musical plays again this weekend and it stars a number of up-and-coming Hollywood-Broadway talents, many from Montecito. I caught the show on opening night last Friday, November 9 and – this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth – my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard and so often. And I’m not talking about the cheeks I sit on. The Drowsy Chaperone features music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, all close friends who created this Broadway musical parody as a wedding gift. It was nominated for a slew of Tony Awards and won five (including best book for a musical and best original score). It opened on Broadway in 2006.

After 17 years at the helm of Santa Barbara High School’s theatre program, Otto Layman is astride the pinnacle of his directorial career. Backed up by an animated and gifted cast, he puts these shows together nearly flawlessly, in what seems like record time.

Before Mr. Layman, the SBHS theatre program was almost dead in the water. This is no reflection upon his predecessor, but there was little interest in live theatre when Otto arrived. Well, of course, he changed all that. He was able to transmit his love of live performance to his high school charges so that now 

he not only has a cast of semi-professional actors, but he also heads up a farm team of freshmen and sophomores eager and ready to tackle future roles as the juniors and seniors move on to UCLA, Juilliard, Yale, and elsewhere.

Additionally, during nearly every production, musical director John Douglas adds to the professionalism of the productions with the unerring musicality of his high school and SBCC musicians. Christina McCarthy’s choreography is first rate, and the wealth and sheer volume of costumes that Lise Lange is able to produce for each production is simply staggering. Mike Madden’s lighting abilities are well tuned and his sets always impart the required background.

Tickets for The Drowsy Chaperone start at $5 for students and anyone willing to announce themselves as qualifying as seniors. I say that because friends of 

mine asked what age was considered “senior,” and the parent ticket-taker responded that if he felt old enough to call himself a senior then he’d get the senior price. He paid his $10. There are some up-front “Reserved” seats for sale at $25 per, the money naturally going towards support of the theatre program, but otherwise The Drowsy Chaperone at Santa Barbara High School Theatre is the best show in town and the best deal in town.

You will laugh.

And, you will be grateful you didn’t miss this show. 

The Santa Barbara High School Theatre is located at 700 East Anapamu Street. Parking can be accessed either from the Anapamu entrance or via Canon Perdido. Shows are: Thursday November 15, Friday November 16, and Saturday November 17 at 7 pm. There will also be a Sunday matinee on November 18 at 2 pm.For more information, or to reserve tickets, please call (888) 979- DONS (3667).