There will be plenty of fans of musical theater at the spring musical at Archbishop Stepinac’s Major Bowes Theater the next two weekends, and one of them will be in a cozy wing chair on stage.
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Stepinac senior Douglas Daniels plays the character called “Man in Chair,” a fan of musicals who puts on a cast album to chase his blues away.
The record he chooses — remember records? — is “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a loopy 1928 musical comedy that springs to life in his drab apartment. Before long, the stage is full of characters, who, this being a musical, introduce themselves: There’s a star, an oil tycoon, gangsters, a Latin lover, a dowager, a butler and a “drowsy” chaperone, back when “drowsy” meant “tipsy.”
This valentine to musicals — and the people who love them — might be among the most famous wedding gifts ever given. It was originally written as a spoof for the nuptials of Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, by their Canadian theater friends. (Martin went on to play the role of Man in the Chair on Broadway while Van De Graaff was immortalized as the name given to the star of “Drowsy.” )
When it reached Broadway in 2006, it won five Tony Awards, including honors for best book, best score and best featured actress in a musical, which went to Beth Leavel in the title role.
Stepinac’s production marks the East Coast high-school premiere of the musical, just as the school’s production of “Curtains” did last year. (“Curtains” went on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.)
Stepinac, an all-boys Catholic high school in White Plains, enlists the services of actresses from across the Lower Hudson Valley: White Plains High, Maria Regina, Good Counsel, Ursuline, Holy Child, Westlake and Suffern.
Emily Schlotman, a White Plains High School junior, plays Janet, a diva who says she is prepared to give stardom away to marry the oil tycoon she loves.
In her showstopper, “Show Off,” Janet declares she’s ready to stop showing off, even as she shows off her considerable skills which include juggling, cartwheels, somersaults, splits and more.
“She’s conceited and she knows she’s the cat’s meow,” Schlotman said.
Daniels, who has been blogging about his experiences in his final high-school musical (read his posts here), said it’s a challenge to have the audience see the show through Man in Chair’s eyes.
“It’s my job to drive the play,” he said. “My emotions have to cause the audience to get as into it as I am.”
Michael Nuñez plays Adolpho, the over-the-top Latin lover with an impossibly thick accent.
“The accent is key,” Nuñez said. “Once I get the accent, I start smiling and I get into it.”
Meaghan McGrath, a Maria Regina senior, plays Mrs. Tottendale, the ditzy dowager who just loves weddings.
“She’s just in love with love,” McGrath said.
It’s a role that requires an actress who has mastered voices, walks and the spit take, a comic technique in which someone shows surprise by spitting whatever they’ve just drunk into the face of the person who surprised them.
McGrath does most of the spitting, while Mike Finn, as Underling the butler, does most of the taking.
The key to a spit take is timing, McGrath said, and timing takes practice.
“We click really well with it,” she said. “Even if I mess up in rehearsal, Mike’s like ‘Let’s do it again till we get it right.’”
Suffering for his art, that Mike Finn.
Playing the title role is Marissa O’Brien Barnes a senior from Suffern High School who attends school at SUNY Rockland.
A working actress, O’Brien Barnes is now in an Off-Broadway show called “Eight Minute Madness.”
The 17-year-old said she has been performing professionally since she was 8, but she has always played kids. “Drowsy Chaperone” lets her stretch and play someone older.
“She’s very dynamic, O’Brien Barnes said. “She’s a Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone and a little Barbra Streisand in there, too. She’s the center of attention, an aging celebrity competing with this young hot new thing. No one upstages her. She’s the drowsy chaperone.”
What: “The Drowsy Chaperone”
Where: Archbishop Stepinac High School, 950 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains.
When: 7:30 p.m., April 23, 24, 30 and May 1; 3 p.m. May 2.
Tickets: $15; $10 for seniors and children under 12.
With: Doug Daniels, Meaghan McGrath, Mike Finn, Albert Stanaj, Matt Lotaj, Samer Akroush, Weronika Dabrowski, Dan Runco, Brandon Russo, Mike Nuñez, Emily Schlotman, Marissa Barnes O’Brien, Jillian Sayegh, Charlie LoCascio, Samantha Kenny, Mikie Joy Sakanaka, Victoria Fernandez, Christina Daniels, Monica Peralta, Tess McIntyre, Amy Casarella, Alyssa DiPanfilio, Nicole Bonnani, Cecilia Gigante, Saidah Bullock, Conor Geraghty, Brenden DelBene, Vincent Mannarino, Chris Bolatgiran, Katie Jo Flanagan, Jillian Sayegh, Valerie Stanson, Elizabeth Mastrocola, Emily Russo, Charlie LoCascio, Ciaran Lucey, Jonathan Huynh, Nick Forlini , Nick Coyne, Melissa Trainor , Alison Kress, Sara Leach, Brian McNally, Lisa Chifolo, Trevor Baynard, Nicole Adao, Ashley Zeitler, Dan Buonocore, Emele Uka , Cameron Khorassani, Patrick Reilly, Steven Colucci, John McCarthy, Kevin Barrientos, Guillermo Lizarzaburu, Manuel Lara, Jonathan Puccini, Alex Fonseca, Christian Barrientos, Paul Kandilou