The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company performed Bob Martin’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center.
Bob Martin wrote the musical in 1998 as a parody of 1920s musical theatre trends. The story features a man in a chair showing the audience his favorite musical from the 1920s, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” When he plays the record, the musical comes to life on the stage. It tells the tale of a wedding that is interrupted by a series of unfortunate antics while the man in the chair gives commentary throughout. The production uses sarcastic quips and slapstick humor to highlight the trends of two-dimensional characters, linear plot lines and racist undertones that existed in the culture of 1920s theatre.
The audience consisted of both Southern Miss students and Hattiesburg residents. Actors made use of the eccentric movements and personalities of the characters to create a lighthearted atmosphere in which the story could take place.
Lauren Rosa-Wise, a senior music education major, played the role of the uppity Mrs. Tottendale who was hosting the wedding. “When I was cast as Mrs. Tottendale it was so much fun learning all of the hoots and hankies and all the craziness, the whole process was just really fun,” Rosa-Wise said.
Many of the actors said they were able to really connect with their characters because of the tropes that they represented in the musical. Joe Van Zandt, a high school teacher from Purvis, played the Man in the Chair who moved the plot along through his love of musicals.
“This guy is me. I’m obsessed with musicals, I don’t really like to leave my house, just like he doesn’t. And when the director asked me to do this, I had never heard of this show, but when I watched the video, I immediately fell in love,” Van Zandt said.
The musical aspects of this production were largely carried out by the orchestra that was positioned below the stage, providing musical effects as well as the accompaniment to the vocalists. Pablo Ranlett-Lopez, a sophomore jazz studies major, played the drum set for the orchestra.
“I’m a jazzer, so most of the stuff I do is improvised, whereas with this I have to play the stuff that’s on the page. This really taught me that music could be funny, we spend so much time worrying about playing the right notes and being super musical and do this and do that, but this was more relaxed,” Ranlett-Lopez said.
Many of the musicians said that doing this production was a very enriching experience that gave them a different perspective on music as a whole. Sophomore jazz studies major Morgan Webster played the saxophone for the orchestra.
“This has been the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in music for the past year and a half. It’s been really fun seeing the performers up there and playing along with them to help make a great show,” Webster said.
In order to keep up with future productions, check the School of Music’s page on the Southern Miss website.