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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
United States
Indianapolis, IN

Beef & Boards The Drowsy Chaperone Laugh-out-loud Fun

by Rita Kohn
April 15, 2015
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
This article was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
The Drowsy Chaperone deserved the multiple Tony and Drama Desk Awards [and nominations] it received in 2006, as proved by the smashingly smart Beef & Boards production on stage April 10th.

A musical within a comedy it's a laugh a minute with roller coaster surprises and vaudeville shtick balanced by heart as big as all outdoors. It's the poignancy coupled with the goofyness that provides the fun while you're watching and the feel of worth when you leave.

"It does something a musical is supposed to do," says The Man in the Chair—a nebbish [look it up] who's having a blue day. "It's something to take you from the real world"—a respite from "nothing work[ing] out." Yet in summing up, truisms gleaned from this tour de farce [yes, farce] give us impetus to 'stumble along' towards something worthwhile.

The vinyl record The Man in the Chair spins to perk himself up transforms his shabby apartment into a glitzy showbiz parody of 1920s American musical comedy, with tunes you can hum when you leave and lyrics you can understand and bond with [thank you musical director Kristy Templet for instilling crisp diction]. The cast 'gets' caricature and kitch that's never condescending or maudlin. With a sure touch of 'more is never too much' director/choreographer Ron Morgan leads the splendid cast of eighteen through a whirlwind of production numbers with top-notch dancing, singing and acting.

I gave up counting costume changes—every one a standout by designer Kurt Alger—and the number of set changes designer Michael Layton devised as sleight of hand manipulations, all abetted by Ryan Koharchik's lighting.

Excellent sound design is by Daniel Hesselbrock. The Orchestra of five sounds much larger. And keeping pace with non-stop pranks and pratfalls is stage manager Elizabeth Stark Payne.

David Schmittou as The Man in the Chair delivers wry humor with perfect comedic timing as he intermittently stops action to comment on the story, actors, music, acting. Up to the minute with current event cracks, he breaks down the proverbial fourth wall, speaks directly to us, egging us on to participate and examine our own quirks and quibbles.

[With a bit of wry irony I realized I was part of this escapade on the day I learned of the death of actor/director Judith Malina, whose intent since the 1950s was to remove the fourth wall by forming the controversial theatre company Living. You'll recognize Malina as Grandma Addams in The Addams Family movie.]

Providing dimensional zing to their stock characters are B&B newcomers Laura Douciere as the conflicted bride, particularly dazzling in "Show Off;" Victoria Weinberg as the ultimate diva a.k.a. Drowsy Chaperone; Timothy Ford as the nervous groom hoofing like an oldtimer along with Ian Frazier as best man George, Alan M-L Wager as the self-proclaimed lothario Adolpho, and Ethan Litt in the cameo superintendent role and ensemble member along with B&B regulars Danny Kingston, Lily Lewis, Joseph Perkins, Jr., Sally Scarbrough and AnnaLee Traeger.

Providing split-second comedic routines are three duos including: Suzanne Stark and John Vessels, Douglas E. Stark and Deb Wims, and Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood. The savior-star turn belongs to the inimitable Kendra Lynn Lucas. You'll have to show up to find out what they do to make you laugh till your sides ache and tears run down your cheeks. You'll go home happy you came.

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