The Drowsy Chaperone

Fri 3rd – Sat 11th August 2018


Charlie Norton

at 11:08 on 12th Aug 2018



In the brisk Edinburgh evening air, the snaking queue of people awaiting the final run of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ hummed with a collective energy of enthusiasm and anticipation. If the crowd was anything to go by, Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) were sure to deliver a fantastic performance – they did not disappoint.

‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ parodies the musical theatre genre through the character of the Man in Chair: he brings to life a riotous Jazz Age show by listening to the soundtrack of the titular production on an old record player and sharing his detailed thoughts on its music, story and actors. The world that bursts from the vinyl is vibrant, hilarious and elaborate, with an ensemble of distinctive, colourful characters – including everything from a pair of gangster pastry chefs to a comically stereotypical Latin lover – and sequence of songs that manage to be both absurd and rousing.

The audience is immediately set at ease with a brilliantly self-aware quip from the Man in Chair, played by Gordon Stackhouse: “Oh dear God, let it be a good show – and let it be short”. Credit must go to Stackhouse for his immaculate comic timing, which garnered consistent hearty laughs. Indeed, the entire cast execute their roles with commitment and panache, fearlessly tackling quirky lyrics and over-the-top roles.

The choreography was enjoyable and for the most part very well executed. A highlight for me was the razor-sharp duo of the gangster pastry chefs, who paired well-delivered pastry puns with seamless physical comedy. A slight general criticism would be of the vocals themselves, which were slightly weaker than expected. However, the cast made up for this with enthusiastic delivery and confident acting, and the orchestra handled a challenging score with skill. In the ensemble numbers such as ‘Show Off’, the cast packed a punch with megawatt smiles and energetic dancing, whilst in ‘Toledo Surprise’ the audience were howling with laughter.

Throughout the show, there was a growing sense of underlying instability in the Man in Chair and at times the narrator’s lengthy asides slightly inhibited the pacing of the show. However, this was resolved by the culmination of the tragic undertone when the Man in Chair, with a glass of wine in hand, started to sing along in a desperate attempt to “escape the dreary horrors of the real world”. The wonderfully performed anthems of the drunken chaperone and the crisis of identity suffered by the romantic heroine Janet van de Graaff took on a new significance in light of the Man’s revelations, resulting in an ensemble finale that encapsulated the nuanced combination of absurdist musical comedy and tragic undertones.

Overall, EUSOG shone in their final Fringe performance of ‘The Drunken Chaperone’ and absolutely lived up to the heightened expectations of the crowd. The show was slick and wonderfully funny, whilst maintaining a grounding through the sensitive handling of the Man in Chair’s reflections. Congratulations to the cast and crew for a very successful production.


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