ENTER THE KING (of Musical Comedy)

How do you follow-up a 2009 Tony Award � winning Broadway performance in the Australian production of Ionesco’s Exit the King ? You get nostalgic and wax lyrical about the golden days of the Broadway musical of the 1920’s. At least that’s what Geoffrey Rush actor supremo has done after showing the world once again that Australia truly �Does Have Talent�!

It should be noted that the best Australian actors are not the flavour of the month television popularity contest variety, but career actors, the home grown �hard yakka� kind – nurtured, inspired, trained, educated and skilled. Australian actors are among the best in the world. Regardless of the productions (which themselves win acclaim) the star power that comes with these shows has been overwhelming this decade. Who has the star power on Broadway marquees today? The answer: Geoffrey Rush (Exit the King), Cate Blanchett (A Streetcar Named Desire), Hugh Jackman (A Steady Rain and The Boy From Oz), Toni Collette (The Wild Party), Nicole Kidman (The Blue Room). While each of these actors has made a world famous career for themselves in Hollywood, they are equally skilled and talented as stage actors.

The Melbourne Theatre Company production of The Drowsy Chaperone has opened at The Playhouse at the Arts Centre (Melbourne).

The Drowsy Chaperone introduces us to the �Man in the Chair�. He’s a simple man with simple wants who when he feels �blue� transports himself to a world of happy endings, the Broadway Musical (not unlike yours truly); but not the musicals with scores by Billy Joel, Elton John or Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He has a love for his collection of records yes, records of Broadway musicals by Gershwin, Porter, Kern and those fictitious collaborators Gable and Stein.

Rush, not known for his singing prowess is a fan of musical theatre and has jumped at the opportunity to play the comic, non-singing protagonist in this uproarious recreation of the 1920’s Broadway musical. As an ardent storyteller, the Man in the Chair recreates the show as he replays his favourite LP. He has never actually seen a production of The Drowsy Chaperone, but knows everything there is to know about it through the songs, the invaluable liner notes and his imagination.

As the story unfolds we meet the cast of characters. The Man in the Chair annotates the story with background on each of the actors and the roles they play. Rush is hilarious as he gallivants around the stage creating interplay amongst the actors in the show. He is ably supported in this production by a cast of up and coming musical theatre talents and fellow veteran thespians (see cast list below). Special mention must go to Christie Whelan as the �oops girl� Janet Van De Graaff, Alex Rathgeber as her fianc� Robert Martin and Adam Murphy as the Latin lover Aldolpho. The multitalented Rhonda Burchmore is the drowsy chaperone charged with the responsibility of keeping the two lovebirds separated prior to their wedding for reasons that are made clear early on in the show. This show has everything you would expect of a 1920’s musical: superficial plot, gangsters, an upper crust butler, an absent-minded matron a bit of tap dancing and lots of shtick. To say anymore would be giving away the fun of seeing the show, that is unless you’re sitting in your easy chair listening to the original cast recording like me.

See you at the theatre!

The Drowsy Chaperone – Music & lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison; Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar. Melbourne Theatre Company at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre

18 January – 27 February Running Time: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes (no interval)

Cast Heidi Arena – KITTY; Rohan Browne – George; Rhonda Burchmore – Drowsy Chaperone; Shane Jacobson – Feldzeig; Adam Murphy – Aldolpho; Robyn Nevin – Mrs. Tottendale; Zahra Newman – Trix, the Aviator; Richard Piper – Underling; Grant Piro – Gangster; Josh Piterman – ensemble; Alex Rathgeber – Robert Martin; Geoffrey Rush – Man in the Chair; Troy Sussman – superintendant; Hester van der Vyver – ensemble; Christie Whelan – Janet Van De Graaff; Karlis Zaid – Gangster Musicians – Mathew Frank – Keyboard; Phoebe Briggs – Keyboard; Nathan Post – Bass: Greg Sully – Drums/Percussion; – Greg Maundrell -trumpet; Ian Bell -Trimbone; John Barrett – Reeds; Stuart Byrne – Reeds Creative Director – Simon Phillips; Associate Director – Dean Bryant; Designer – Dale Ferguson; Lighting Designer – Matt Scott; Musical Director – Mathew Frank; Choreographer – Andrew Hallsworth

� Henry Sachwald 2010

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