IT’S not surprising that renowned Newcastle musical theatre performer Rachelle Schmidt Adnum auditioned this year for the title role in the musical The Drowsy Chaperone and won it.
She’s had a passion for the show since seeing it in New York during its 18-month Broadway premiere season in 2006-07.
“I knew nothing about it before going to a performance, but I fell totally in love with it,” she said. And that passion increased when she was in New York again in January this year, and went to a Broadway supper club, 54 Below, where the original cast were having a reunion 10 years after the season ended and presented a concert using its songs. And she got to meet Beth Leavel, the actress who had the chaperone’s role.
The Drowsy Chaperone, which won five Tony Awards including best book of a musical and best original score, is the first major production of new theatre company High Street Productions, and it will be staged at the St Philip’s Christian College Theatre at Waratah, from October 13 to 20.
The Drowsy Chaperone is a loving send-up of the Jazz Age musical, with one show-stopping song and dance number after another. When the houselights come down, a man who likes to sit in a chair (played by Theo Rule) appears on stage and puts on his favourite record: the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. The recording comes to life, with the musical’s characters appearing as the man looks on. There are the two lovers (Zoe Walker and Tyran Stig) on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man (Hamish Pickering), a desperate theatre producer (John Thomas), a not-so-bright hostess (Hannah King), a dim-witted actress (Alana Wilson), who wants to take over the career of the bride, a renowned theatre star, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs (Luke Aspinall and Jay Scott), a misguided Don Juan-style Spanish man (PJ Willis), and the title character, the bride’s chaperone (Rachelle Schmidt-Adnum), who can’t stop drinking champagne. Add characters including a very proper butler, Underling (Tom Rodgers), and an aviatrix (Phoebe Bayliss), who is a sexy figure, and you have the ingredients for an evening of madcap delight.
Michael Cooper, the founder of High Street Productions, also saw The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway and so enjoyed it that he went to its initial Australian production in Melbourne in 2010. The show’s staging team includes director Robert Stuart and choreographer Natalie Baker, who won CONDAs last year for their work on the musical Mary Poppins.
The Drowsy Chaperone has 7.30pm shows on Saturday, October 13, Wednesday, October 17, Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, and 2pm shows on Sunday, October 14, and Saturday, October 20. Tickets: $24. Bookings: www.tickets.spcc.nsw.edu.au .
Spotlight on 2019
Theatre companies have started to announce what they will stage in the next calendar year, and 2019 already promises to be engaging for audiences.
Newcastle Theatre Company, which has its season launch on October 24, is staging a musical called Dogfight in March that has soldiers fighting in a south-east Asian country heading off on a night on the town, with one attracted to a waitress.
Newcastle’s Young People’s Theatre has announced six shows for 2019. Two are being staged by YPT in conjunction with Lindsay Street Players, a company established by adults who began their theatre work with YPT. The show casts invariably include senior teenage members of YPT.
The first Lindsay Street Players show, in February, will be Hot Mikado, a musical comedy based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, with the songs using jazz, blues and rock styles. The other, in June, will be Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, which looks at the relationships of family members hit by a tragedy.
The YPT shows with young performers are: Madagascar – A Musical Adventure Jr (April-May school holidays), adapted from the animated film; 101 Dalmations (July-August school holidays), another film adaptation; Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr (October-November school holidays), a musical which has the title character seeking a new life in New York; and Nick Tickle: The Fairytale Detective (November-December), which makes amusing use of fairy tale figures, including Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, a wolf and a family of bears.