Cast members of “The Drowsy Chaperone” are from, from left, Jonathan Carr, Leslie Reed, Raymond Woodworth, Tony Roy, Karianna Merrill, Abram Dwyer, Anita Charles, Scotty Venable, Julie Sanborn, Megan Walz, Joseph Tinianow, Kathryn Kellogg, Justin Morin, Ansley Watson, Kristen Gilhooly, Hannah Hanson, Casey Waters and Zack Balkcom. Missing is Sophia Wood, who took the photo. Submitted photo

AUBURN — Nostalgia is a sentimental emotion. Remember the record player? Perhaps wistfully we remember large round rotating discs, a needle on an armature travelling in a continuous groove producing recorded sound.  The term “in the groove,” in fact, came into use during the 1920s first as a music reference and later as an idiom to describe something that was performing smoothly.

And as a musical, Community Little Theatre’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is wildly “in the groove.”

The setup: The audience is treated to a phonograph recording of the titular fictional play — “The Drowsy Chaperone” — on a small, portable tabletop record player. A solitary amateur armchair theater critic and ardent fan takes us into his confidence and plays his prized two-record set of the original cast production. As he delights us with his extensive knowledge of the play and cast, his modest non-descript apartment comes to life as performers magically appear from everywhere, including the refrigerator. And with that, a performance and critique of the whole show unfolds in real time.

Gangsters, played by Scotty Venable and Joseph Tinianow, plan a “Toledo Surprise” in the production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Community Little Theatre in Auburn. Submitted photo

What follows is arguably the “perfect” Broadway musical parody; a high send-up of everyone and everything a musical must have. There are songs that suddenly burst forth involving the most banal or farcical topics; a new dress, cold feet, stumbling home drunk, a contract hit. Even a monkey. The heights to which we are taken in this wonderful absurdity make us giddy with the nonsensical splendor of it all.

From time to time, the armchair critic lifts the needle from the recording. This halts the show in amusing freeze frame so he can illustrate a vital detail. This device is sheer comedic perfection. Similarly, from time to time, the record skips. Or to bolster a point, he replays a portion of the play again and again.

The magnificent Community Little Theatre cast plays this high humor as straight as an arrow, which just adds to the laughs. Jonathan Carr as the Man in the Chair is absolutely superb. His wry observations on life and the theater are rapid fire and laugh-a-second sharp. His ubiquitous presence throughout is towering. Even at the play’s intermission, he hilariously IS the intermission.


Kathryn Kellogg is perfect as Janet Van De Graaff, the Broadway star who is determined to leave the stage to marry a man “she hardly knows.” Her show-stopping number “Show Off” is amazing as she cheekily and contrarily shows off in high style while renouncing her ardor for being in the spotlight.

Her fiance, Robert Martin, is played to animated wonder by Ray Woodworth. He features a breathtaking tap dance number with his best man, George, and a sensational blindfolded love scene on roller skates! Really?

George, Robert’s best man, admirably played by Abram Dwyer, is perpetually harried trying to coordinate and arrange the wedding details.

Underling the butler, played by Tony Roy, is perfectly and outrageously flippant amid the zany proceedings and particularly facetious with the flighty and clueless Mrs. Tottendale, played by Anita Charles. As Tottendale, Charles is charmingly empty-headed. Her presence and purpose in the play is unexplained — doesn’t every musical have an unexplained character or two? — but she seems to have some vague involvement in the upcoming wedding,

To complicate and confuse an already deliberately obscure plot, Janet Van De Graaff’s manager, Feldzieg, played by Zack Balkcom, is under a lot of pressure and in fear of being “rubbed out.” Following Feldzieg everywhere is Kitty, played by Julie Sanborn, who hopes to replace the soon-to-retire Janet as Feldzieg’s new star. She annoys him incessantly as she tries to convince him of her talents.

Feldzieg is otherwise distracted by two gangster hitmen, played by Scotty Venable and Joseph Tinianow. An unnamed investor is pressuring Feldzieg to derail Janet’s wedding so she will not retire from the stage and has sent the gangsters to achieve this goal. Their incongruous hijinks are magnificently played. Unfathomable and hilarious, the gangsters have gained access to the wedding proceedings posing as pastry chefs. They present Feldzieg with a musically coded threat, called “The Toledo Surprise,” which is an uproarious recipe to “encourage” his complicity in their plot.


Julie Sanborn as Kitty, the ditzy flapper who hopes to one day be a star, in the production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Community Little Theatre in Auburn. Submitted photo

Speaking of plot, the title of this screwball play — and the play within the play — is “The Drowsy Chaperone,” remember? So, what’s that all about anyway? Well! Apparently in the decadent era of the roaring ’20s, what with prohibition, a jazz-crazed populace and all, there were certain norms that were sacrosanct. Among them, for the purpose of this play specifically, was the wedding tradition that the groom must not see the bride prior to the wedding. So, a fading former star has been hired to chaperone Janet and keep the affianced couple apart. And as the Man in the Chair has forewarned, “that’s the plot, basically. Hang on for the ride!”

To anchor the plot, Kristen Gilhooly drolly plays “Drowsy,” the chaperone and liquid diet devotee who remains unimpressed by all the antics swirling about her. She focuses on keeping her glass filled. Inexplicably, arriving on the scene is Aldolpho, the Italian lothario played by Justin Morin with his usual superb aplomb and bombast. And here the plot thickens . . . to employ the term loosely.

Add to this mix Trix, the aviatrix, played by Casey Waters, who was introduced in the opening character parade. She has been mysteriously absent throughout until her particular title becomes necessary to tie up loose ends for the predictably exultant and boisterous musical finale.

The sound track to the show is impeccably performed by an extraordinary orchestra of superb musicians under the direction of Paul Caron. The music is terrific and its timing is crucial to the laughs as the stop-and-start, herky-jerky interruptions of the Man in the Chair’s continue throughout.

Brandon Chaloux’s direction and Adelyn Bell’s choreography have once again upped the ante in what has become the hallmark of L-A’s Community Little Theatre: good musical comedy. A large cast made even more stupendous by an even larger terrific ensemble cast transports the audience to a fantasy place of laughs, great music and talent.

As the L/A Community Little Theatre kicks off its 84th season, admittedly in the horrific shadow of unfathomable loss and tragedy, “The Drowsy Chaperone” in some small measure has done what community theater is there to do. As The Man in the Chair offers at the play’s conclusion: “It does what a musical is supposed to do: It takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry within your head, you know? A little something to help you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you’re feeling blue. You know?”


If you go

Community Little Theatre is at 30 Academy St. Auburn.

Phone: 207-783-0958


Box Office email:

Remaining performances are: Thursday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices (including all fees): $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and students, and $17 for children ages 13 and under. Tickets and subscriptions are available online at or by phone. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

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