Man in Chair Rehearsal Photo
Used with Permission from the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society
Sedos presents The Drowsy Chaperone at London's Bridewell Theatre. Recipient of five Tony Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Book of Musical, the show runs from 3rd to 13th May 2017.
Sedos have recently received several NODA awards and have also been nominated for Shinfield Players Scenic Award for Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On. Achievements such as these give you an idea of what you're in for – one helluva good show!
The Drowsy Chaperone - the Story
Based on a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, this musical, often referred to as Man in Chair, tells the story of a man suffering from a “non-specific sadness”. As he searches for a cure he considers his record collection. He chooses a little-known recording of The Drowsy Chaperone, and we are taken back in time to the 1920s.
As we meet the characters in this comedic farce, brought to life through the music and lyrics of Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, we also discover why The Man (played by Alex Baker) is so sad and alone.
Director Emma J. Leaver Speaks Exclusively to Infobarrel
Infobarrel: What inspired you to direct this show?
Emma J. Leaver: I’m a musical theatre geek! When I need to get stuff done at work, when I am feeling sad, when I want to have a good old singalong, when I’m on a long journey, when I’m cleaning the house; I put on a musical soundtrack. The escapism of musicals that Man in Chair demonstrates is something I can really relate to. The actual show of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is very funny and silly. At the same time it is very self-aware of its own ridiculousness. The tunes are ear worms in that old Broadway style and the opportunity for actors to play and have fun is something that really appealed to me.
Infobarrel: What are the main challenges in a show like this?
Emma J. Leaver: The show within a show construct, and the mechanisms of the narrator character listening to a recording, can be quite tricky to orchestrate and you have to become comfortable with a certain level of suspension of reality. Technically, the show is quite challenging in that we have roller-skating, magic tricks, spit-takes, quick costume changes, tap dancing, highly stylised wordplay and some very big sings to include. This requires pulling together a cast who have different strengths and uniting them into a single strong production.
Infobarrel: What special qualities were you looking for at the auditions?
Emma J. Leaver: It’s difficult to detail special qualities at auditions, because each role in The Drowsy Chaperone is very different. As well as the named character we also have amazing dancers in our ensemble who just make everything look so easy, it’s phenomenal. I guess ultimately we were looking for people who were able to blend performing at a very cheesy, also pantomime style with a modern storytelling ability that allows the audience to build a connection with them. Anything more than that, you’ll have to identity when you see the show!
Infobarrel: Are there similarities between this show, and say, I Love you, You're Perfect, Now Change which you directed for Sedos in 2016?
Emma J. Leaver: I think the similarities lie in that I like to give an audience what Man in Chair wants: “I just want a story, and a few songs that will take me away. I just want to be entertained.” I think there is a place for theatre that challenges us and asks us to explore big questions about the world, but equally, I think there is a place for theatre that reflects back to us the joy and warmth we want in the world.
While The Drowsy Chaperone and Love, Perfect, Change are both musicals, I hope to direct shows that appeal to my non-musical loving friends so I need to keep in mind what would hook them. Generally that is a comedic, relatable human element. Usually, I imagine how I want the audience to feel in the last moments of the show and work from there. I’m not afraid to say that I want that moment to be heartfelt, perhaps bittersweet, but ultimately happy.
Infobarrel: Personal experience has taught me that rehearsals for any production are extremely hard work but you also create some fantastic memories. What will be your enduring memory from this show?
Emma J. Leaver: I think my favourite memory from this show is when we started running the show and the cast who weren’t onstage weren’t sitting off on the side in their own worlds. They came and watched their cast mates perform and genuinely laughed and applauded for them. We also have a large creative and technical team, all with our own varying levels of expertise and experience, who support each other as a collaborative team. That dynamic is something really special.
Sedos Dress Rehearsal
The Musical Director's Perspective - Michael Cannon Spoke Exclusively to Infobarrel
Infobarrel: Can you tell us a bit about your musical background?
Michael Cannon: I got into Musical Direction while at University of Warwick. I was studying French and History, but they have an amazingly active arts centre so I had lots of opportunities to get involved. The first show I was MD for was Little Shop of Horrors, and I went on to direct Company, Spring Awakening and Cabaret, amongst others. Last year, Emma asked me to MD I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change as my first Sedos show - I loved it so much, I came back for more.
Infobarrel: What attracted you to the music of Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison?
Michael Cannon: I'm a massive fan of the type of shows Lambert and Morrison are sending up in The Drowsy Chaperone. They've done an fantastic job at stuffing the score full of songs that are both recognisable in their style, but also new, fresh and super catchy. The other thing which attracted me to the score is the rich orchestration - the band tallies at a very healthy 12 - which gives you that feeling of listening to an original Broadway cast recording.
Infobarrel: What are the main musical challenges in this production?
Michael Cannon: Because the show is fairly short, and all of the classic musical theatre tropes are in there, there's a lot of music in many different styles. There are also some pretty tricky harmonies, with up to 6 parts (there are only 18 performers in the show...), but I think the cast would agree with me when I say it's been so much fun learning this as a group, and working on the ensemble sound so it's cohesive, choral, and really lush.
Infobarrel: I put this question to Emma but I'll ask you as well. Personal experience has taught me that rehearsals for any production are extremely hard work but you also create some fantastic memories. What will be your enduring memory from this show?
Michael Cannon: For me, it was the first time seeing Robert Martin (played by Angus Jacobs) on rollerskates, wearing a blindfold, doing choreography!! We all laughed so much in that rehearsal (when we weren't on the edge of our seats, worrying he might fall over...)
The Audience's Perspective
It was very clear from the outset that Sedos were thoroughly enjoying themselves. They made a technically difficult production seem so easy.
I laughed and laughed and laughed! I laughed so much that I was almost in danger of missing bits, but no – as is so essential with comedy the timing is critical. Sedos got it right every single time!
It was not just the timing that was so perfect. As Michael Cannon says: “there are some pretty tricky harmonies, with up to 6 parts”. Supported by a large orchestra, the cast expertly reproduced these harmonies creating a rich and well-balanced sound. What pleased me very much was that at no time did the orchestra over-power the cast. Set design was simple but so effective and Sedos's costume department came up trumps on this one As for the dancing – well, what can I say? Superb!
Sedos - Upcoming Productions
Make a note in your diaries of Sedos's future plans -
- Little Women the Musical - 27th June-1st July
- The Rivals – 19th-23rd September
- The Nether - 26th-30th September
- Ordinary Days - 27th-30th September
- Frankenstein - 17th-21st October
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert - 22nd November to 2nd December
In addition to this varied programme of future productions, Sedos also offers workshops designed to develop the skills of their two-hundred-strong membership. For further details of all activities and forthcoming productions are available from Sedos.
Bride Ln, London EC4Y 8EQ, UK