Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Large donation marks start of 'Drowsy Chaperone'

     The Valencia College theater program opened showing of “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Friday Oct. 21, in the Performing Arts Center at Valencia's East Campus. This unconventional and fun-loving production thrilled the large audience with music, dance, romance and comedy. There was also a surprise donation of $1,000 to the Performing Arts program from members of the Valencia Alumni Association.

“The Valencia Alumni Association has always been incredibly generous in their awards and their time spent attending our productions, and we are so very grateful," said Julia Gagne, the plays director and theater professor at Valencia. "We also love the idea of our graduates joining the Alumni Association and giving back to the college with their time or talent.”

     The play; originally written for Broadway in New York, is an homage to the Jazz era in music and set in the post-war roaring 20s America. This is interwoven with a modern style from the help of an unconventional guide and narrator the character “Man in Chair.”

     The best way to describe “The Drowsy Chaperon” is unconventional. It's not the typical play you encounter with standard performing arts style. Rather than a set time-line of events, the play is broken up and starts and stops several time by the “Man in Chair” character. He works as the narrator and bridge between the performance and the audience.

     Outlandish elements of the show like spit takes and dancing monkeys are addressed by the “Man in Chair” who describes what the audience is thinking and just how ridiculous certain scenarios are. By poking fun it allows everyone to not just focus on the absurd and instead just enjoy the show for pure entertainment value.

     Musically the entire production is very impressive, with several upbeat and catchy tunes like “Toledo Surprise”, and “Wedding Bells” all accompanied by a talented nine member orchestra lead by Musical Director, Tim Hanes.

     The ensemble cast featured many great singers, and moments where certain performers shined in there vocal talents. 

     Evangeline Mateo who plays the drowsy chaperone gave a rousing solo performance about enjoying one life “As We Stumble Along.”

     Jillian Gizzi who plays the bride Janet van de Graaff, displayed all the talent needed to be a stand alone star on Broadway, who's also a conflicted lover, caught in the crossroad of unexpected revelations on her wedding day.

     Another strong element of this production is the high level of comedy featured throughout. A high point created by Paul Layton, who plays the over-the-top Latin Lothario Aldolpho. Layton thrilled and delighted the audience with his lovable yet blatantly stereotypical portrayal of one wild self-proclaimed ladies man.

     “Everyone did a phenomenal job, I watch plays all the time, and this really blew me away, it's a wonderful show,” said Derek McAtee, a former Valencia student.

     “I thought it was great it was a lot of fun, it made me smile, I caught myself smiling through and I thought it was very clever. said Patricia Anderson, who coordinates disability support services at East Campus. "There's a lot of talent up there with very good stagecraft that was really wonderful."

     If you missed the first run of shows you only have a few chances left, with three shows Oct. 27 – Oct. 29 starting at 7:30 p.m., and a final matinee performance on Sunday Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m. 
     There is also a special deal for Valencia students with a discounted admission of $5 for Thursday night's show. Tickets can be bought at the Performing Arts Center's box office at East Campus or online at

By James Tutten

(Published: Oct. 26, 2011 issue of "ValenciaVoice" on page 20.)

(All photos by Kevin Abel)

Evangeline Mateo who plays the drowsy chaperone sings her heart out.


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