By Christine Sampson
The musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a comedy that takes place in the 1920s, one that — spoiler alert — largely happens in the mind of one of the main characters, Man in Chair, who is recalling bits of his life while describing his favorite musical for the audience.
There’s vaudeville, slapstick and stereotypical musical theater portrayal of romance. And yet, there are some among the cast and crew at Pierson High School’s drama club who can relate to the story and its more profound underlying message.
“Musical theater is about a place where you can send a message of acceptance and understanding,” Sophie Yashar, a junior who plays the role of “Trix” in the show, said. “It’s kind of a sanctuary from all of the judgments that come along with high school. This show really portrays that — true acceptance and love of one another. I feel that way with this cast. We come together to make this story come true.”
The show’s director, Bethany Dellapolla, who is in her first year directing at Pierson, said the juxtaposition of humor and depth is what she loves about the show.
“On the surface is it’s really fun and farcical and there’s a lot of comedy and shtick, but underneath there’s a deeper message, and it’s that we all have problems and we’re all in this together and you’re not alone,” Ms. Dellapolla said. “It’s a very heart-filled message.”
Along the way, the cast has done what she described as extensive character development, especially with the student actor who portrays Man in Chair, senior Matthew Schiavoni.
“There’s a lot of layers with Man in Chair,” Ms. Dellapolla said. “As we get to the end you see them coming out more and more with him, and that has come so, so far.”
The rest of the cast has had to make some “big choices” in their portrayal of their own characters, she said, resulting in over-the-top performances “that surprise me every day,” Ms. Dellapolla said.
The cast is a rather young cast, with just one senior, and even including a pair of eighth graders, Gaylin Davey and Emily Brownstein, who starred in the middle school production of “The Little Mermaid” in February. But age has not played a factor in the performance, Ms. Dellapolla said.
“Actually, they have been professional,” she said. “…Honestly, I think this means the future of Pierson theater is very bright.”
Along the way, challenges have included finding props and costumes appropriate to the 1920s that still look fresh and glamorous. The set changes have also been difficult because the script lacks “blackouts” between scenes, so some cast and crew members have to attempt to seamlessly sneak furniture and props on and off stage in a choreographed fashion.
And speaking of choreography, two of the lead actors, junior Zeb Kinney and sophomore Jack Nolan, engage in a tap-dance number despite never having tapped before being cast in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Starring alongside Matthew, Zeb and Jack are freshman Lola Lama as “Janet Van De Graff” and sophomore Anna Francesca Schiavoni as “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“I love working [on the show] because our cast is so welcoming and professional,” Anna said. “We listen to our directors and choreographers, we learn the dances and the songs, and we have a great time doing it.”
Melissa Luppi, a retired Pierson teacher, is once again co-producing and coordinating costumes — which run the gamut from Asian-inspired outfits to maids to four brides’ dresses and everything in between. Keith Holden is co-producing, while Oscar Gonzalez choreographed the show and freshman Eva Doyle served as dance captain. Pierson teacher Suzanne Nicoletti is the vocal director and Paul Goerz designed the sets. The student stage managers are junior Natalie Federico and senior Nick Knab.
“You’ve got a bunch of very, very talented high schoolers that are working their tail off to make it a good show,” Ms. Dellapolla said. “I promise you will laugh for the entire hour-and-a-half and leave with a positive message.”
Show times are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in the Pierson main office during school hours. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets can also be reserved and picked up in advance via email by sending a note with the subject line “tickets” to firstname.lastname@example.org.