By Edhat Subscriber
Last night I had the pleasure of attending Santa Barbara High School's fall performance, "The Drowsy Chaperone." I had never heard of the play, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Musical comedy by a bunch of teenagers? I tried to think of an excuse, but if I'm going to fight for more funding of the arts in our local schools, I had better be prepared to support them in person as well.
In a time where a large amount of local news coverage of our youth focuses on the negative, this high school program is clearly gathering the talented teenagers who are too busy and too talented to be getting into trouble. "The Drowsy Chaperone" is a Tony Award-winning show that had its audience laughing and getting slightly choked up, due in large part to its host and narrator, "The Man in Chair," played soulfully by Clayton Barry. The man tells the story of his favorite 1920s musical, while listening to a scratchy vinyl album on his vintage record player. As he reflects on the play and its players, the musical bursts to life in his living room, much to his enjoyment - and ours.
The characters are over-the-top, as was typical in many shows of the pre-Depression era, providing a delightful retrospective of the non-PC stereotypes of yesteryear. Gangsters, flappers, spit-takes, sexual innuendo and martini glasses all make an appearance, but the talent - the youthful talent - is what shines through in this show.
Jordan Lemmond, who plays "Robert Martin," a handsome coed, is a triple-threat in acting, singing and tap dancing. He is a pleasure every time he is on stage, which, fortunately for the audience, is frequently. The "Drowsy Chaperone" is portrayed by Elli Harb, whose comedic face and gestures are well worth the trip to the theater. She transforms herself into the hysterically funny lead character with ease (and a little help from her highball glass!). Perhaps the most memorable number is performed by Emilio Madrid-Kuser as "Aldolpho," the latin-lover who is charged with the task of breaking up the impending nuptials of the lead couple. Aldolpho is described as "the man of a thousand accents - all of them insulting."
"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a campy play that makes fun of, and pays homage to, the campy plays it parodies. It is both humorous and poignant and altogether entertaining. The messages "Chaperone" imparts are lessons all of us can appreciate as we shuffle through our own lives. How lovely it is to be reminded of the importance of love, laughter and living by a group of our most talented, local youth. Do yourself a favor. Support high school performing arts and go see "The Drowsy Chaperone."