For Lindenwood University-Belleville’s most ambitious production yet, Director Nick Moramarco selected “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a spoof of American musical theater.
The popular Tony Award-winning musical comedy will be staged this weekend in the LU Auditorium, featuring both students and local residents in its cast.
“Our program grows with every show and every season,” Nick said. “This year, we are putting on four shows, ‘Chaperone’ being the third in the lineup. The size and scope of ‘Chaperone’ is larger than anything we’ve done yet as well.
The show-within-a-show concept has a middle-aged agoraphobic Broadway fanatic providing a running commentary about his favorite musical while playing the old LP. The 1928 show, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is fiction, but springs to life in his dingy apartment.
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The story involves shenanigans before the wedding of a glamorous star to an oil tycoon, bringing together an absent-minded hostess, a tipsy chaperone, a Broadway impresario and his ditzy chorus girl, a pair of gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, an unflappable British butler, and a Latin lover.
The show captivated Moramarco.
“I first saw the show when the national tour came through St. Louis, and it immediately became my favorite musical comedy. The meta-theatrical style particularly fits with my interests, and the music is just so much fun!” he said.
The enterprising Moramarco, an assistant professor of theater and technical design manager for the auditorium, hasn’t been afraid to tackle challenging musicals, helming a production of “Sweeney Todd” last February.
I first saw the show when the national tour came through St. Louis, and it immediately became my favorite musical comedy. The meta-theatrical style particularly fits with my interests, and the music is just so much fun!
Director Nick Moramarco on “Drowsy Chaperone”
He is also the music director. “I’m also pleased with the live band we’ll have — nine great players who sound fantastic!” Moramarco said.
The show, known for its dazzling dance sequences will be choreographed by Lauren Pfeifer, who is also playing the flapper, Kitty.
“I have worked with her several times as a dancer and actor over the past few years. She’s putting some delightful numbers together and giving our students a challenge, as we have not really dealt much with dancing in our prior shows,” he said. “The dance has certainly been a challenge. Many of the non-major students have never been in a show before.”
The first B.F.A. students at the Belleville campus will graduate this spring. The cast includes sophomore Brenda Bass in the title role of the Chaperone. “She has an appropriately wonderful belt,” Moramarco said.
Robert, the fiance, is played by Travis Pfeiffer, who was Sweeney Todd last year. Dawn Schmid of Columbia, who works with several area professional and amateur theater companies and is a 2015 graduate of McKendree University’s music program, is bride-to-be Janet Van De Graff.
The narrator/lead, the Man in Chair, is played by local actor Phil Leveling, an SIUE graduate who works with other regional companies, too.
“Other familiar faces (all in ‘Sweeney Todd’) include students Kaycee Warner, Sebastian Wegner, Nico Bourgeais and as Broadway producer Feldzeig, Ethan Edwards of the Belleville Philharmonic Society,” he said.
“I’m very pleased with the actors’ ability to rise to the challenges of this show. They are handling the music, dancing, and complicated comic timing with great ease.”
Because of the large cast of 24, and the hectic lives of 17 students and seven non-students, scheduling rehearsals was a challenge.
“Between students’ athletic obligations and non-students’ work schedules, it has proven difficult to get everyone together as often as I’d like,” he said.
Moramarco, a St. Louisan who moved to Belleville, has many years’ experience in acting, directing, music and teaching. He has served as either a director or music director at several St. Louis professional theaters, liturgical music director for a few St. Louis Catholic churches, board president of the former company Citilites, and taught in local schools.
The scenery also has been a challenge, but Moramarco is eager for audiences to take in Kyra Bishop’s scenic design. She has designed for several professional companies in St. Louis.
“This particular show has many special scenic requirements which will be special surprises for the audience,” he said.
A Canadian hit, the show opened on Broadway in 2006 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Book (Bob Martin and Don McKellar), Best Original Score (Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison), Beth Leavel as Best Featured Actress (as the Drowsy Chaperone), costume design and scenic design.
Costumes are by student Jason Kennedy and props by professor Marsha Parker.
Moramarco thinks it’s a perfect choice for Valentine’s Day weekend.
“It is just a super fun show that you are bound to enjoy, and appropriate to bring a date on Valentine’s Day!” he said.
Tickets for general seating are available at the doors or by calling ahead to the box office at 618-239-6297 or 844-843-5969.
“The Drowsy Chaperone”
- Where: Auditorium at Lindenwood University-Belleville, 2600 W. Main St.
- When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
- Cost: $10 general admission, $5 for students and seniors.
- Tickets: Call 618 239-6297 or at the door day of show