Next week, SUSU Showstoppers’ latest show, The Drowsy Chaperone, comes to the Annex Theatre. Following a man (Danny McNamee) revisiting the LP of his favourite show, this meta-musical has won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book – but if that’s not enough to tempt you, we spoke to ever-enthusiastic director Robin Johnson to get a better idea of what Showstoppers have in store.
The Drowsy Chaperone doesn’t sound like your typical musical. What’s different about it?
RJ: The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical within a comedy – about musicals! It takes aim at all the tropes of the ‘Golden Era’ of musicals. Think your classic mistaken identities, comedy duo gangsters, ditzy chorines, Broadway starlets and “drowsy” (read: ‘drunk’ in the prohibition) cast members. Plus, it features the first appearance of a revolving stage in the Annex Theatre. Finding one within our budget’s been interesting, so here’s hoping it doesn’t break!
You’ve had several roles on-stage in musicals. How have you found the switch to directing for the first time?
RJ: Initially it was a bit of a culture shock, but on-stage I always loved being in shows which allowed me as a cast member to relax and revel in the inherent cheese of some musicals, enjoying delivering jokes as much as I hoped the audience did receiving them. The Drowsy Chaperone is no exception. The characters and ensemble are all quite something, but the script is even better and littered with hilarious moments and plenty of surprises (just wait for the Act Two opening, you won’t regret it).
What has been the biggest challenge of directing Drowsy for you? Has it been different to working on other musicals in the past?
RJ: I think the biggest challenge of directing Drowsy has been co-ordinating its plentiful huge-scale production numbers and set pieces (pretty much everything you can imagine), while simultaneously retaining a sense of variation and invention in the comedy scenes between them, particularly in terms of using the revolving stage. There are only so many times you can use it before it cheapens the show, but we’re excited by the effects we’ve come up with!
Finally, sell the show to us. Why should people come and see it?
RJ: I can quite honestly say it’s like nothing you’ll expect before seeing the show. With a revolving stage, a huge number of Health & Safety-related nightmares (tap dancing, blindfolded dancing on roller-skates, mind-reading, revolving sets and spit-takes aplenty), and a quite blatant mockery of all things musical theatre. If you’ve ever loved a musical, or conversely if you positively hate the lot of them, there’s some hilarious commentary here for everybody. And just you wait for that Act Two opening…
Will the cast survive the revolving stage… and just what is that mysterious opening of Act Two? The Edge will be along to find out next Wednesday, but if you’d rather see for yourself, tickets can be reserved here.