Curtain Call: The Drowsy Chaperone
The Drowsy Chaperone
by Jennifer "Jay" Bull
The next McLeod Summer Playhouse production, the 2006 Tony Award-winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone, will feature direction and choreography by Emmy winner-- and SIU alum-- George Pinney.
Pinney received his Emmy, as well as a Tony nomination and a National Broadway Theatre nomination, for the 2001 production of Blast. He earned his master of fine arts from the SIU Department of Theatre in 1980. He has directed and choreographed more than 150 musical-theater productions for national and international tours, regional and university theaters, and is the head of the bachelor of fine arts program in musical theater at Indiana University.
Pinney brings with him Matthew Buffalo, a guest artist who plays The Drowsy Chaperone's lead, Man in Chair. Buffalo, who resides in New York City, has appeared in national tours of Fosse and Spirit of Dance.
"I just graduated a year ago with my MFA in acting from Indiana University, and George Pinney was my professor there," Buffalo told Nightlife. "I did several shows with him while in school, and in the summers he would do other productions outside of school."
The Drowsy Chaperone contains a plot within a plot, where the Man in Chair, the narrator, is a die-hard musical-theater fan who chases the blues by playing a recording of his favorite 1928 Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. This fictional 1928 hit revolves around a Broadway starlet, Janet Van De Graaff (played by Courtney Self in the McLeod production), and her intentions to leave the spotlight for the bliss of married life. Her escape is threatened by the machinations of her producer, Feldzeig (Landon Sutton), who must get her back to the show before loan-sharking gangsters "collect."
"I put this old record on of a musical, and as I describe the musical, it comes to life," Buffalo said. "I leave stage one time in the show."
Playing this part has meant a great deal to Buffalo, as he has wanted to be in the musical since he first saw it.
"Man in Chair is a role I feel I was destined to play," Buffalo said. "The reason I say that is because I ran into director George Pinney, who I have had the pleasure to work with on several projects, while he was in New York City. He had just held auditions for the show and was still looking for someone to play the role of Man in Chair. At the same time, I had been telling my colleagues in New York City that I want the opportunity to play Man in Chair, and when I mentioned it to George, we both knew this would be a great match for both of us. I am so honored to be working with George again, as well as getting to know and work with some amazing actors here in Illinois....
"Man in Chair is a dream role for me," Buffalo continued. "The first time I saw The Drowsy Chaperone, I knew I had to play the role. I'm so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this production."
Buffalo's character offers commentaries about life and musicals, and these are a big part of why Buffalo wanted the role.
"There are several reasons why I am drawn to the character of Man in Chair," Buffalo said. "One is because he has a wonderful, dry wit about him. I love his sense of humor. He is also very passionate about what he loves-- in this case, it's musical theater. I also love Man in Chair because on the surface he looks like a sarcastic, lonely musical-theater geek. But he really has a tremendous depth to him. To him, musical theater is much more than mere entertainment. It helps him deal with the pressures and sadness of the world. Man in Chair is a wonderfully written and complex character."
The musical itself, Buffalo said, is a must-see for musical-theater fans.
"It's fun, funny," Buffalo said. "If you love musicals and you love musical theater, there's a lot of jokes about musicals, musical theater, and how they are put together, and some elements of musicals that make fun of them a little bit. [One of] the reasons that this show means a lot to me is that I do love musicals. This shows how musicals can take you into another world and make your day a little bit brighter, and I think that this show illuminates that. It's really just a clever, clever show."
The Drowsy Chaperone will play Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11 and Thursday, July 15 through Sunday, July 18 in McLeod Theatre. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees, which take place at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students. For tickets or more information, stop by the theater box office on the south side of the Communications Building, call (618) 453-3001, or visit <http://playhouse.siu.edu>.
who: McLeod Summer Playhouse
what: The Drowsy Chaperone (live musical theater)
where: Communications Building McLeod Theatre
when: July 9 through July 11 and July 15 through July 18