Opening night of “The Drowsy Chaperone” excited the audience and cast alike

With a greater turnout for Opening Night than the Drama Department anticipated, the show went off without a hitch


Shelby Lewis

Sara Jo Reeder, playing the role of "The Drowsy Chaperone", finishes her "rousing anthem about alcoholism" on Wednesday's Opening Night performance of "The Drowsy Chaperone".

The Opening Night of Mead High’s 2019 performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone” went off without a hitch.

With the Drama Department, composed of musical theater, band, and orchestra, preparing for this since January, a lot of work went into making the show as spectacular as it was on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Mrs. Andrea Mackey, the technical director, said before the show even started, “I’m really excited [for this show], which is different. I’m usually too busy to be excited, but tonight I am really excited.”

She also said that she had “a lot of confidence in the cast and crew” and that she was “excited to see the responses to the jokes and the things [they’ve] worked hard on.”

The show was a massive performance. Over 80 students are involved in the show each night, with forty-three students in musical theater, twenty-one students in tech, and twenty students in the pit playing the live music.

Mariana Ochoa and Sarah Walsh, two flutists who played in the pit along with the rest of the band and orchestra, said that band contributed three flutes, one clarinet, one trumpet, one trombone, and two percussions to the show, and the rest of the musicians in the show were from the orchestra. They said that they’d been working hard ever since January to prepare for Opening Night.

The show started at 6:33 and the audience was almost immediately “immersed into the glamour of the 1920s.” Their “nonspecific sadness” was quickly washed away as they were plunged into the show to watch “mixups, mayhem, and a gay wedding” unfold.

The musical was essentially the live performance of a record that was “The Drowsy Chaperone.” It was quite literally a play within a play. The actors moved on their own accord, apart from the narrator.

Ryan Yancey, who played the narrator called “The Man in the Chair”, would occasionally pause the show by pulling the needle off the record, subsequently halting the actors on stage as if they were really part of the record. During these pauses, Yancey’s character would clue us into the history of the fictional 1928 musical comedy with his running commentary about the show’s historical facts and little glimpses into his thought process and feelings about the show that only added to the audience’s experience. Through him, the audience was even more engaged in the performance.

The show’s plot itself was interesting as it took twists and turns that one would’ve never expected. With fun and quirky characters and mixups galore, it surprised and entertained audiences, drawing more than a few laughs.

There were a few minor hiccups in the show. Scott Harton, who played the show’s groom Robert, and Cooper Byme, who played the best man George, had to fix a minor costume malfunction when Harton’s arm would not cooperate and slide into a jacket arm. Harton made light of the situation by staying in character and playfully chastising Byme’s character saying, “You’re trying to get my arm into the coat pocket, George!” It was a wonderful save and kept the audience in the show.

In addition, during a disgruntled aside from Yancey’s character about cell phones and how they only “ruin the moment” at the theater, a real cell phone went off in the audience. The familiar chime of an iPhone ringtone could be heard loud and clear through his complaining and it provided a bit of unintentional comedic relief.

The show was amusing in its own way. It may not be the best show to take children to because it contained a joke in which it compared the musical to pornography and involved several references to love-making and a “rousing anthem about alcoholism”, but it also had its fair share of clean humor and hilarious moments.

Skyler Studholme, who played the lady of the house Mrs. Tottendale, took not one, not two, but seven spit takes at poor Braden McCawley, who played her Underling. All of this came to fruition because Mrs. Tottendale had told the Underling that, because of the prohibition of the era, a glass of “ice-water” was to be a code word for a glass of vodka. Obeying her orders, the Underling brought her a glass of vodka when she asked for ice-water. However, Mrs. Tottendale had indeed meant just a plain glass of water. She spat out the “vodka” in the Underling’s face, drenching McCawley and the stage beneath him.

McCawley later said that the seven spit takes were simply a part of the show, and he had to take them. “It’s seven times four plus the number of times we’ve rehearsed it,” he said nonchalantly. “The only good thing about [getting spit-taken on] is that it’s cold water and we’re under the hot stage lights.”

In a later scene in Act I, Harton is seen roller skating blindfolded near the edge of the stage. The air was tense as the audience watched him, afraid that he’d skate right off the edge of the stage and into the pit.

Shortly after this scene, intermission took place when The Man in the Chair had to use the bathroom, giving the audience fifteen minutes to get up and do what they needed.

Matthew Silbernagel, who was in charge of the sound effects, said, “[The show’s] all going good [up to this point]. There’s been a few mistakes but nobody’s noticed.”

Explaining his role, he said that he controlled the sounds that couldn’t be played by the musicians in the pit and he spent three to four weeks preparing and practicing cueing the effects on time. “Most of it takes place after school,” he said. “It made it hard to balance homework, but I get it all done.”

As the second act of the show got ready to begin, one could see the silhouettes of feet shuffling underneath the curtain as the cast and crew moved about to get ready.

The second act was just as wonderful as the first and summed up the show perfectly. A reprise of a previous song “As We Stumble Along” acted as the finale where the whole cast joined in to sing. The cast and crew received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

The set used for the show was very large and seemed to be intricately designed. Ms. Mackey said that some parts had been reused from previous years while others had been built this year. She said that it’d taken them all semester to build and a month from the start until putting it up Opening Night to assemble.

When asked if she had been nervous for the show, Ms. Mackey said, “There are always things that make me nervous like actors on roller skates and coming on early.”

Mrs. Katarina Schmitt, the Orchestra Director, said that she was very proud of her students and proud of their ability to “adjust to the live actors on stage.”

The turnout for opening night was “incredible,” according to McCawley. “We don’t usually do shows on Wednesdays and this was just incredible for opening night. It was as big as I could’ve asked for.”

Trevin Haines, a member of the chorus, said that, “Opening Night is never the best show, but that was a really good show. It was 110% of any Opening Night I could’ve asked for.”

The cast had a lot of fun performing in the show. Faith Hale, who played Gangster #2, said, “I think my favorite part is adapting to be able to bring out the character in a way that was funny and made sense to the audience.” She played her part well, saying that this year, in comparison to previous years in musical theater, “We had a lot of creative liberty. In previous years, we were told where to go, what to do, but this year it was like, ‘Act like you’re at a wedding as a gangster pretending to be a pastry chef. It was just a lot of fun.”

And indeed it was a lot of fun. “The Drowsy Chaperone” was an amazing show and the Drama Department executed it flawlessly.

If you have yet to see the show, the Drama Department is performing again from April 25 to April 27 at 6:30 every night. You won’t regret it.