It was the performances by the students, particularly Liam Swan, Janessa Floyd, and Anthony Nappier, of the very clever play that debuted on Broadway in 2006, and especially the outrageous (and perfectly appropriate for Arcadia) mistakenly staged scene from a different play set in China and featuring dialogue such as “What is it about the Asians
that fascinates Caucasians,” that made me laugh the hardest.
But it was the surprisingly powerful singing of the student actors, especially Alana DeBlase, whose inspirational strength of obvious self-confidence in front of an intimidating crowd of about 800 people gave me goose bumps. And it was the palpable unity of not only the dozens of student performers on stage, but also the support of their classmates in the audience — three virile young men in the front row stood and cheered loudly for Nappier when he took a curtain call — that nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Director Steven Volpe has done a masterful job once again of finding the perfect theatrical vehicle that provides stage time for nearly four dozen students of many different ethnicities (if you closed your eyes you would have no clue of any cultural distinction, but that would mean missing the moving magic of the seamless blend) — at least a dozen with significant distinctive characters and many lines of dialogue in a play that has broad appeal and entertainment value for all ages. And this time he did it on a much larger physical scale, the massive stage of the new Performing Arts Center that dwarfs the former Little Theater, and in front of sell-out crowds that are more than four times the size of previous audiences.
Dozens more students are involved in behind-the-scenes production work before and during the show, including the creating of what must be hundreds of costumes and the enormous sets with many moving pieces. And even more students contribute in the small orchestra that somehow provides all the music live from way backstage – it’s a testament to the caliber of their performance that the audience barely gives a thought to the fact that it is being played live by high school students somewhere out of sight and therefore out of mind.
Remarkably, there was not a weak performance in the entire cast during the second of the three shows this week (the final show is this Saturday afternoon, March 23). And unlike many high school productions that are of a quality that can only be enjoyed by loyal parents and friends, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a delightful night’s entertainment for anyone of any age, whether or not you know anyone involved with the production. I was surrounded in our comfortable seats by people I know from all walks of Arcadia life, including members of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, the Arcadia Historical Society, the Arcadia Public Library and Friends of the Library, as well as employees of the School District and members of the School Board.
The refreshingly unique concept of the play features a “Man in the Chair” (Swan), a hilarious narrator in contemporary times who speaks directly to the audience, describing his love of an old vinyl record performance of a 1928 musical he never saw about an egotistical actress who is about to be married to a man she barely knows. As he plays the record, the musical comes to life in his mind on stage but is repeatedly halted — often in mid-performance — by “the man” who wants to share his random but passionate feelings about the scene (or life in general) with us before continuing on.
Once he even plays a line of dialogue over and over to point out a critical word that cannot be heard clearly, which requires the actors on stage to repeat their actions and dialogue several times in a row.
That’s just one example of the inventive structure of the play, which places an enormous responsibility on Swan, a junior at AHS, to hold the whole thing together as he remains on stage for the entire two-hour-plus running time of the production, often miming the lines of the other actors from his chair next to the Victrola record player. (Well, he does leave briefly at the opening of the second act after putting the needle on the wrong record and running off “to go pee,” which leads to the inadvertent staging of the Chinese number before he comes running back to change the record.)
The other two primary stand-outs are seniors Floyd, as the middle-aged chaperone who is never without a drink in her hand, and Nappier, as the dim-witted European lady-killer Aldolpho. They are particularly brilliant in a scene they share in which Aldolpho goes to great lengths during a hysterical song and dance number to make sure the chaperone knows his name before they make love.
Many of these student performers have been equally strong in previous productions, including last fall’s “The Three Musketeers.” Two of those include Paean Wang (junior) and Craig Capps (senior), who deserve calling out for their outstanding supporting roles. Once again they shine throughout multiple costume and hair style changes and deliver impeccable comic performances while singing and dancing, most notably in the “Toledo Surprise” number that builds from a duet to a Busby-Berkeley-style extravaganza.
In this first major regular-scheduled production in the expansive and impressive Performing Arts Center, the AHS Theatre Department has set the bar extremely high, not only with the quality of the program, but also in selling out the more than 800 available seats for each of the three nights of performances in the 1,100-plus seat auditorium. Volpe gave due praise in his comments prior to the show to volunteer marketing director Bill Clark, who has created all the advertising, ticketing, and sponsors that drove sales of somewhere around a whopping 2,500 tickets.
He and Volpe also take great care to thank all the supporters and even posted lobby cards and fliers of previous AHS plays over the years on the set decorations of “The Drowsy Chaperone” in a nostalgic nod to returning alumni.
That’s a class act in a first-class new setting that dovetails nicely with yet another top-notch AHS Theatre performance.
— By Scott Hettrick
Order forms for DVD videos below, followed by comments from attendees…
It was an amazing display of the student talent at Arcadia High School finely honed by equally talented staff members.
We enjoyed it thoroughly! The singing is the best I have heard, and we attend all the plays.. It was a great performance.
The Drowsy Chaperone show last night was very entertaining. All the cast members did their best and it showed. The jazz band was fantastic! I couldn’t believe it when they said it was not a recording we were hearing but a live band was behind the scene, literally. The set and costumes were beautifully done. The lead actors/actresses and singers were a delight! Janet had such a captivating voice, & Adolpho was so into his role he made me cry from laughing. Mrs. Tottendale and Underling were darlings to watch.
The best part for me was the “Message from a Nightingale” at the top of Act 2. That was such an unexpected part that made me really LOL! Overall, this zany musical comedy was great. The performers level of energy and happiness on stage was infectious and the time and effort everyone put in this production did not go unnoticed. Well Done! So proud of our students!
Thoroughly enjoyed the Drowsy Chaperone. TALENT galore from stage lighting, set design, wardrobe, choreography, musicians, singing and acting. Delightful way to spend an evening.
The performance was great. The students did a fabulous job. I think Adolfo stole the show – he did for me anyway. Loved the new theater. Arcadia FINALLY has a center to showcase its programs.
Also, thanks for the helpful emails on parking and arrival times. They were very helpful.
Is this Arcadia or Broadway? I was completely blow-away by this first rate, vocally amazing, gorgeously choreographed and staged production of The Drowsy Chaperone. I had to keep checking the program to be sure this was a high school production. First rate all around. Every high school (and college!) should look to Arcadia High School Theatre as the standard for theatre excellence.
The show was Awesome! The performance excellent! Such talented kids…What I will retain the most; the narrator making the play so funny; when the records were confused with the “Asian-Caucasian Song ” it was so appropriate for this community. The performance of “Armando” was very funny and unique especially the part when he drops…I was not expecting that!. The show had me laughing all night and we talked about it over dinner. It was as funny as the musical “Menopause” at the Luxur in Vegas. I can’t wait to see another play.
I have attended some Arcadia High shows over the yeas, both plays and Orchesis recitals.
Overall, it was very well done – Broadway shows have a week of pre-show discounted prices to get up to speed. This was opening night!
The narrator had a huge part to memorize and was very impressive to the finest nuance of his act.
The choreography was varied and tightly performed
Coordination with the live music was excellent… and there was alot of it. I was glad to have the jazz band performers introduced at the end.
The singing by the leads exhibited strong voices with notes held long, often high ranges and on key.
The large chorus performed with song and dance tightly choreographed.
The comedy was only funny because of how well it was performed – when the record player got stuck the cast were believable, when the cane was dropped and it was difficult for the narrator to hear the verbiage (over and over), when Adolpho was over the top, when the narrator joined with the cast etc.
The sets, lighting and staging changes were impressive for a High School production. Congratulations to the set crew and stage hands.
It should not be forgotten that the experience for the youth is educational, not just from books. With the cuts in many arts programs it is gratifying to see the skill-sets of Arcadia youth and as a community member be able to enjoy a piece of the enriched curriculum Arcadia offers.
Congratulations and well done to all those involved!
Dr. Brad Miller
Overall a very good show. The young lady who plays the
bride has an excellent voice. Beautiful new venue Had fun!!!!
Fantastic!!!! Extremely entertaining!!!
I was very impressed by the caliber of the performance. The music was wonderful and the sets were remarkably professional. Especially enjoyable were the performances by Liam Swan, Alana Deblase and Anthony Nappier.