Students shine in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

SARANAC LAKE – It’s entertainment that’s drenched in nostalgia, dipped in history and brimming with a comedic intent to poke its finger at all things serious.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a play within a play, a lively parody with the kind of lyrical storytelling and sense of humor that seems to transcend the intricate musical pieces it’s set to.

The Saranac Lake High School performance begins in darkness with the show’s narrator, the aptly named Man in Chair, played by Pendragon Theatre’s Kent Streed, waxing reminiscently about a bygone era when theater was a grand affair. The mood overtakes him, and he produces a dusty old record called “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

The music begins, and the crackle of the needle is soon replaced by a live, eight-piece band. The lights come on, and the audience suddenly finds itself transported to a vibrant 1920s America complete with Broadway showgirls, a toothpaste model and blinfolded roller skating. How else is a groom-to-be expected to avoid seeing his betrothed before the big day?

“I’m supposed to be a cocky toothpaste model named Robert Martin, but I’m a goofy dope at the same time,” said Ryan Murray. “Even though I’m this fancy toothpaste model, I can’t believe I’m engaged to someone like Janet. It’s all really random, but it all works.”

Martin’s fiancee, Janet van de Graaff, is a glamorous and elegant Broadway superstar played by Autumn Buerkett. The upcoming wedding presents van de Graaf with a life-changing decision.

“She has a huge conflict because she has to choose between having a life on the stage and her one true love,” Buerkett said.

To make things more difficult, and entertaining, the odds are stacked firmly against the love-struck couple. As the characters plot their way through the story, that love struggles to endure despite the efforts of those who wish to ruin it. It’s a plot cliche that’s not unfamiliar to audiences, and the musical takes full advantage of that.

There’s a suave Latin ladies’ man with a penchant for purple suits and Elvis hair, a pair of pun-poached mobsters posing as chefs, and a determined Broadway showgirl wannabe named Kitty whose dreams are only trumped by her limited intelligence.

“Her main goal is to be a star,” actress Ivy Huber said of Kitty. “She wants to do what Janet does. When she hears about the wedding, she thinks it’s her chance, but she’s kind of stupid and makes a lot of mistakes. She wants to be like Janet, but she’s just not good at it.”

As in life, things in the “The Drowsy Chaperone” aren’t always perfect. The record skips, characters bumble and fumble, and the audience is always at the mercy of Man in Chair, who has a tendency to add whimsical critique and “fast-forward” through scenes he doesn’t like.

The musical is directed by Saranac Lake High School alumni Matt Sorensen. It is the third show he has directed for the school.

“It’s really an amalgamation of all musical theater,” Sorensen said. “It’s going to be a funny, fun show.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or