Live musicians! Glorious costumes! Intricate sets! Show stopping song and dance numbers! Mix in two people in love on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man, a distressed theater producer, a not-so-bright hostess, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a misguided Don Juan, a tipsy chaperone, and a skater skating blindfolded, and you have the ingredients for an evening of zany delight.
Listen and watch, indeed! As an outstanding Broadway musical send-up of the Jazz Age erupts in the middle of the ‘Man in Chair’s living room on stage at the at the Alhambra High School theater tonight through Saturday.
The Alhambra High School’s spring production this year, The Drowsy Chaperone, is a musical from the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. The show won five Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 2006. A great show made even better by the Alhambra Students!
I put in hundreds of hours backstage with students, costumes and props before I retired as a high school teacher in Vacaville so I thoroughly enjoyed slipping backstage at Alhambra High last weekend during a dress rehearsal. Actors were busy everywhere. Some practiced dance steps, others rehearsed their lines. The ensemble gentlemen got neck tie lessons while other actors checked mirrors for last minute costume touch ups. It felt good to breathe in that old grease paint and feel the backstage excitement again.
The show opens with the character ‘Man in Chair’, in his living room. A Broadway fanatic, he listens to a record of the fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. As he listens to the sound track, the characters appear in his little apartment. Man in Chair provides a running commentary throughout the show from the stage to the audience. He is invisible to the players.
I asked William Frances what it was like to play the character of Man in Chair. “It was – ‘humanly’ awkward” he chuckled. The sweater wearing character goes through many emotions during the show and while the actor could personally relate to the character’s emotions, he said it felt awkward portraying them on stage. I’ve seen William onstage. Not one bit awkward!
A petite young woman sporting aviation goggles walked by. Maryann Ekstrom, a tenth grader, plays Trix the Aviatrix. I asked her how she came to be in the show. She said she’s always liked acting and decided to audition. Seeing her name on the cast list was very exciting for her. She’s so grateful she got the part! Already Maryann is looking forward to acting in more shows.
As I talked to students backstage, they all seemed to feel the same way. They liked being there. Acting made them feel more confident in the real world and they enjoyed working together as a team to accomplish a goal. Ali Podwys said simply that she loved the great attitude of the cast.
I watched Samantha Roberds happily fluffing pillows on a burgundy satin bed. How did she get involved? Her friend Emma talked her into becoming a techie (technician) and Samantha will definitely sign up again. Seniors Ellise Limjoco and Erin Keller, along with sophomore Emma Wentz were hard at work nearby cutting out rainbows. Working hard to create something is absolutely worth it when they see it all come to life. And they get to make new friends at the same time! “I like being part of something bigger” said the cloud maker, Sherry Limjoko, a sophomore. “It’s fun!” she said with a big smile as she glued balls of cotton to a cardboard cutout. (You gotta love a show that features clouds and rainbows!)
There are many ways to be involved in the theater arts. Senior Chloe Bell is a member of the ensemble this year and was in the past production of “The Boy Friend”. She’s been a techie in past Alhambra shows and has done digital work for this one. She plans to go to Capilano University in Canada next year to study digital effects such as CGI and to have a career in show business.
At first I thought I was seeing double. One young man was in costume and another not, but both looking suspiciously alike. “He’s my twin” explained Reese Richardson. Reese got involved with the play through his drama class and has enjoyed singing. What does his brother Mason think of it? “It’s awesome to see my brother on stage!”
The dress rehearsal was about to start so I headed out front. As I turned to go out into the audience, a tall, dark and handsome man with a fake mustache walked by wearing a tuxedo and flamboyantly swirling a full length cape. “I am Adolfo, a self-proclaimed Latin lothario with no brains,” explained Ryan Schaefer, in an amazingly convincing sort of generic European accent. Then he grinned and said that this was the most fun character he’s ever played. And he absolutely loves his costume! “Adolfo is actually a complex character,” Ryan said. “The character is an actor playing the part of an actor.” Ryan confided that he’s never played ‘sexy’ before. “It’s a real learning curve. I’m sort of a Pepe Le Pew kind of sexy” he said and laughed as he walked to his spot behind the curtain.
I found a seat in the Alhambra Theater just as the lights dimmed. The curtain opened and I was transported to New York City and to the heart of 1928 Broadway. Live musicians! Glorious costumes! Intricate sets! Show stopping song and dance numbers!
What happens next? You’ll have to come see to find out!
“The Drowsy Chaperone”
Alhambra High School Performing Arts Building
150 E. Street, Martinez,
Performances will be Wed-Sat, April 25-28 at 7:00 pm.
Children 10 and under $5, MJHS/AHS Student $10, General $15, Senior Citizen $10
Tickets may be purchased online at https://ahsbulldogstore.myschoolcentral.com and picked up at Will Call. Online sales end daily at 1 pm. Unsold seats available at the door.
The Drowsy Chaperone
Director: Gerry Wiener
Choreography: Rebekah Zahner
Musical Direction: Michelle Brown
Technical Director: Sara Stafford
Costumes: Sara Stafford, Janice Vinco
Man in Chair – William Francis
Mrs. Tottendale – Rebekah Lipman
Underling – Sam Millson
Robert Martin – Tyler Caspar
George – David Miller
Feldzeig – Henry Clarke
Kitty – Skylar Wondrusch
Gangster #1 – Bre Miller
Gangster #2 – Isaiah Huntsinger
Aldolpho – Ryan Schaefer
Janet Van De Graaff – Niki Amini
The Drowsy Chaperone – Julia Lloren
Trix the Aviatrix – Maryann Ekstrom
Superintendent – Timothy Douglas Sherry
Jadee Jianoran – Piccalo, flute, A. Saxaphone, Ukulele
Jenna Ebding – Flute
Brynn Crowley – Clarinet
Jade Jachim – Clarinet
John Butcher – Alto Saxophone
Kadyn Brown – Tenor Saxophone
Nate Orrick – Baritone Saxophone
Dylan Gregory – trumpet
Zachary Smidebush – Trumpet
Daria Bivens – Trombone
Everett Fischer – Piano
Dylan Martin – Bass Guitar
Alex Santa Maria – Drum Set
Hayley Ward – Percussion
Stage Managers – Lily Skinner & Emma Wentz
Lighting Designers – Kamaria Soffer & Elam Bender
Sound Designers – Hanna Lawson & Amaya DeShasier
Spotlights – Alyssa Chiok & Idalia Mejia
Stage Crew – Erin Keller, Sherry Limjoco, Marina Perez, Samantha Roberds
Set and Painting Crew – Elam Bender, Alyssa Chiok, Amaya DeShasier, Buddy Hatch, Erin Keller, Hanna Lawson, Ellise Limjoco, Sherry Limjoco, Idalia Mejia, Marina Perez, Samantha Roberds, Sophie Rousset, Lily Skinner & Emma Wentz
Rehearsal Assistants – Coral Sciara & Natalie Rousset
House Managers – Kayla Padilla & Antonia Reed
Ticket Assistants – Ellise Limjoco & Sophie Rousset
Technical & Costuming Assistant – Mrs. Janice Vinco
Ticket Sales Manager – Ms. Deb Dawson
Thank you –
Friends & Family of the Alhambra Drama Department
Alhambra High School Drama
Alhambra High School Custodial Artisans
Alhambra High School Staff
(Thank you and dedication to Tom Doppe)
Karen Carlson – Assistant Principal
Kerry Cusack – Assistant Principal
Denise Fuller – Digital Art II Teacher
Chloe Bell – Digital Art II Poster Designer
Jay Heeb – Woodworking Teacher
The Woodworking Class Artisans