Farmington Players present ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published May 1, 2019

 Janet Van de Graaff, played by Lark Haunert, center, sits and answers questions from the press in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Janet Van de Graaff, played by Lark Haunert, center, sits and answers questions from the press in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Photo provided by Jan Cartwright

 The cast of the Farmington Players’ “The Drowsy Chaperone” — from the left, Julia Turner, Tim Tammer, Barbara Bruno, Edmund Guay, Jason Wilhoite, Lark Haunert and Bob Hotchkiss — prepares for opening night of the show April 26.

The cast of the Farmington Players’ “The Drowsy Chaperone” — from the left, Julia Turner, Tim Tammer, Barbara Bruno, Edmund Guay, Jason Wilhoite, Lark Haunert and Bob Hotchkiss — prepares for opening night of the show April 26.

Photo provided by Jan Cartwright

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FARMINGTON — You don’t have to travel all the way to New York City to take a journey back to the Broadway stage of the Roaring ’20s.

This season, the Farmington Players Barn invites audiences to dive into a production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a musical comedy set in 1928 that promises a fun, exciting escape from reality into the lives of two lovers.

The musical, which originally appeared on Broadway in 2006, is being performed by the Farmington Players until May 18. Sitting at approximately an hour and a half in length, the show packs in “every big Broadway number that you’d want to see in a musical in a condensed amount of time,” said director Cynthia Tupper.

“There’s a tap (dance) number. There’s several big ensemble numbers. It’s got a little bit of vaudeville in with a routine they do, so it has a little bit of everything, and that’s what’s really fun about the show,” she said.

This show within a show opens with a character known only as the Man in the Chair sitting in his apartment. Immediately, the fourth wall breaks as he begins to tell the audience what he loves to do when he feels blue: listen to his theater records, particularly his favorite, the Gable and Stein production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

As he sets the needle on the record, suddenly the fictitious show, which follows the love affair of two main characters, Janet Van de Graaff and Robert Martin — played by Lark Haunert and the theater board’s president, Jason Wilhoite, respectively — comes to life right in his apartment.

“Janet Van de Graaff is the star of Feldzieg’s Follies, and in the show she’s giving up her starring role to marry Robert Martin,” Haunert explained. “You can tell how much she loves performing, but she struggles with giving up that love of performing to get married, and that provides the basis for the story as well as provides some of the comic mishaps that ensue.”

As a longtime fan of the production, Haunert was excited to portray Janet because she believes a lot of people, including herself, can relate to the predicament Janet puts herself in as the story unfolds.

“I think a lot of people struggle with figuring out what they love to do and what they’re obligated to do, and finding some balance in that,” said Haunert. “I have that as a working mom trying to perform, so I think that has really helped me find her as a woman.”

Beyond the musical’s romantic narrative, it’s also jam-packed with comedy around every corner, from both the Man in the Chair, who occasionally stops the record to interject anecdotes, to a musical number in which Wilhoite’s character can be seen performing a song and dance number on roller skates, blindfolded.

“I think this is the kind of show that has a huge audience appeal, especially to an older audience,” said Tupper. “There’s nothing edgy about this show. It’s just really all entertainment.”

Behind the scenes, however, this production has been a lot of work to put together and promote to the community, particularly because it doesn’t hold as much name recognition as other musicals the Farmington Players have put on in the past.

Despite some of these challenges, Wilhoite believes it’s the Players’ responsibility not to shy away from productions such as this one.

“I think it’s our responsibility as a community theater organization to provide a space for people who can’t get to New York or can’t afford to go down to the Fisher,” he said. “We give them an opportunity at a much more accessible price point to be involved in and experience live theater in a very professional setting.”

And although ticket sales aren’t quite at the number that Wilhoite and others were hoping for their debut weekend, he’s confident there will be a strong word-of-mouth presence that will spread after their first weekend of shows.

When the curtain closes, Haunert hopes people can leave feeling good after a fun-filled night of music, dancing and comedy.

Tickets are still available for all dates and can be purchased at farmingtonplayers.org/buy-tickets-now.

The musical will be staged at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays until May 18, with a Thursday night showing replacing the Sunday performance the last weekend.

The Farmington Players Barn is located at 32332 W. 12 Mile Road.

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