Going Out on a High Note

“THE DROWSY CHAPERONE” COMES TO SCC

It’s time to ring in the roaring ‘20s as SCC welcomes to its stage the Tony-winning musical “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Set in the era of flappers and speakeasies, this tongue-in-cheek comedy debuted on Broadway in 1998 and will be directed by SCC acting professor and veteran director Bryar Golden.

Golden has directed a number of campus productions including “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” winter’s “Opera Workshop” and, most recently, “Peter and the Starcatcher.” However, “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be the first major musical work that she has ever directed.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for me,” Golden says. “It really has.”

The Story

Led by an unnamed protagonist known only as Man In Chair, “The Drowsy Chaperone” tells the story of a fictional 1920s musical of the same name that comes to life as he plays its record in his living room — making for an exciting show-within-a-show.

Man In Chair, who often breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience with personal commentary, adores “The Drowsy Chaperone.” But because he wasn’t around to see it performed live, viewers are able to witness his unique imagining of the actors and characters as the show unfolds from his perspective.

“We aren’t seeing something that really existed, except in this man’s head,” Golden explains. “So any of those emotions that we’re feeling, we have to remember it derives from him.”

The plot of “The Drowsy Chaperone” focuses on famed showgirl Janet Van De Graaff, who is set to marry her true love: a wealthy oil tycoon named Robert Martin. An alcohol-indulgent woman aptly nicknamed “Drowsy” is assigned to chaperone Janet before the wedding takes place, but chaos soon ensures.

“There are an assortment of characters that come in and problems that exist to drive this couple apart,” Golden says.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” cast rehearses a dance number. Photo: “The Drowsy Chaperone” production staff

Man In Chair

Noah Bruckshen, an SCC theater student of four years and frequent player in campus productions, will be portraying Man In Chair — a character he describes as “lonely.”

According to Bruckshen, the only thing that brings joy to Man In Chair is listening to the record in question, which helps “take him away to another world.”

“Since I first saw this show I’ve felt a great deal of myself in Man In Chair,” he says. “Since he is the only truly real person the audience sees on stage, he has to be a character but also relatable and very human.”

Golden explains that through Man In Chair’s narration, the audience will get to hear about the circumstances that have come his way and have brought him to this point.

“Certain things in his life have led him to feel more comfortable in his home among his musical records,” Golden says.

From an acting standpoint, Bruckshen adds that the bulk of Man In Chair’s lines come in the form of monologues, which he describes as “an actor’s favorite thing and worst nightmare.”

Bringing the Show to Life

Golden says “The Drowsy Chaperone” features a mix of humor and poignance.

“I think it touched me,” Golden says of the script, describing how she thinks that there’s a part of all of us that (is) Man In Chair.

“All of us have our own experiences that we go through in life,” Golden says. “Sometimes there’s sadness that we have to deal with, and sometimes there’s something that lifts us out of our sadness — and music can do that quite well.”

Golden feels fortunate to be working with the cast, noting their hard work and talent. “I can’t say enough about them,” she says. Golden describes “The Drowsy Chaperone” as a difficult show filled with lots of singing and dancing that requires precise timing — and due to it’s 1920s setting, the presentation must reflect the melodrama of the era.

According to Golden, teamwork and camaraderie are very important. “We are a very tight-knight group, and that’s how I like to run my shows,” she says. “I like everyone to understand that no one’s more important than each other and we all help each other along the way.”

Golden adds that the most gratifying part of the process for her is working with the students and seeing them grow as actors.

“It’s fun for me as a director to sit back in the house and just watch it all happen onstage,” she says. “It’s exciting and satisfying, but you have to understand that once your job is done, it’s done, and you give the show over to the people that are performing it.”

Additionally, audiences can look forward to an extended walkway that stretches in front of the orchestra pit and right up to the front row. “I wanted to reach into the audience,” Golden says.

Meet the Stars

Camaira Metz, an SCC student of two years, will be portraying Janet Van De Graaff.

Although Janet is willing to give up the stage to marry the man of her dreams, it will also mean giving up her place in the spotlight.

Metz says she hasn’t really portrayed a character like Janet before. “It’s been really different and interesting finding all of her characteristics,” she says. “She’s sort of got this Disney princess-y feel to her.”

She adds that it can sometimes be hard to play a role that’s nothing like herself. “I have to really dig deep in finding out who this character really is,” Metz says.

Metz identifies the dancing in the show as the most enjoyable, noting that she’s not used to dance-heavy roles. She says the experience was “a challenge, but also a blast.”

“This show is so special, especially since it’ll be my final one at SCC,” Metz says. “The cast has become a tight-knit family and I think the people will see that onstage.”

Man In Chair expresses enthusiasm for the leading couple of his favorite musical (from left to right: Camaira Metz, Noah Bruckshen, Amin Fuson). Photo: “The Drowsy Chaperone” production staff

Macall Gordon portrays the show’s leading lady, Drowsy. Gordon has appeared in previous SCC productions “A Little Night Music” and “Sweeney Todd” along with a recurring role in the Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.”

Gordon describes Drowsy as a “mature” character in a supporting role; a situation she says Drowsy is reluctantly confronting.

“It is often the fate of female actors once they reach a ‘certain age,’” she says. “They start playing the grandmother or the wicked witch.”

Gordon says she likes that Drowsy is cutting her own path through the show and trying to reclaim some piece of her earlier life — where she was the romantic lead. “Now, she just gets to be funny, which is my favorite thing to do,” she says.

Bruckshen describes the show itself as “well-suited” for the cast.

“They’re an amazing group of funny people who all have a gigantic amount of love and respect for musical theater,” he says. “Seeing everyone blend so well into the show and their characters has been very fun.”

Like Metz, “The Drowsy Chaperone” likely spells the end of a long and fruitful run of SCC productions for Bruckshen.

“I couldn’t go out on a higher note,” he says. “The show is a celebration and loving send-up of musicals and the people who love them. The comedy is wickedly smart and it also manages to truly tug on the heart strings in a surprising way (that) I feel like anyone could relate to.

“I highly encourage people to come see it and have as much fun as I’ve been having in it.”

“The Drowsy Chaperone” premieres on May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Campus Theater. Refer to the A&E Calendar for a complete list of showtimes.

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