Rampage lifts 'Chaperone'


POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some performers have roles written for them. Others step into a character so perfectly that it is hard to believe that the piece wasn't written with them in mind. Diamond Head Theatre artistic director John Rampage's performance as Man in Chair, the central character of DHT's season-opening production of “;The Drowsy Chaperone,”; is a perfect example. Rampage is so utterly convincing playing a lonely fan of classic Broadway musicals that the odds are at least 50/50 that someone is going to go away afterward thinking that some of his comments are autobiographical.

The role is complex. The show is a comedy that satirizes the old-style Broadway musicals of the 1920s while comparing them — sometimes favorably — with contemporary fare. The Man, alone and “;blue,”; recovering from a relationship problem he only alludes to, puts on the original soundtrack of a 1928 musical comedy, “;The Drowsy Chaperone.”; Listening to the treasured re-issued recording distances him from his “;sadness”; while he provides informed commentary about the story, the songs, the characters and the actors who played them.

The premise of the show-within-a-show is that the showgirl star of Feldzieg's Follies is planning to leave the show and marry a wealthy young man. However, one of the major investors in the Follies thinks the show will fail without her and Feldzieg faces harm if he can't prevent the wedding.

The production runs without intermission, and Rampage is not only on stage for almost every moment of it, he is also “;on”; for the duration — sometimes addressing the audience from the side of the stage, and sometimes mingling with the characters while he silently watches the action with a childlike delight and fascination of a true fan.

There are a few darker and more poignant moments, and Rampage is convincing with them as well.

DHT guest director/choreographer James Patterson, a veteran of the national touring company of the show, does a masterful job handling both responsibilities. He also surrounds Rampage with a remarkable cast:

» Yvonne Iversen displays her talent as a comedienne in the title role as the bride-to-be's “;drowsy”; — as in “;perpetually inebriated”; — chaperone.

» Jim Price stops the show with his portrayal of a stereotypical “;Latin lover”; named Aldolpho. His big number with Iversen is one of the show's comic highlights.

» Daniel James Kunkel and Thomas McCurdy are a well-synchronized team as comic gangsters who infiltrate the wedding party disguised as pastry chefs.

» Madison Eror (Janet Van De Graaff) and Kyle Malis (Robert Martin) click as the showgirl and her wealthy but none-too-bright fiance. Eror's the stellar centerpiece of one of the early comic song-and-dance numbers Malis shares the spotlight with her on another that's a bit more romantic.

» Kirsten Pennaz (Kitty) has several great scenes as a stereotypical “;dumb blonde”; chorus girl who may not be as “;dumb”; as she seems.

» Douglas Scheer (Underling) combines an excellent command of dry understatement with admirable endurance of slapstick in an excellent performance as a long-suffering butler.

There are also strong supporting performances by Braddoc DeCaires as the best man and Fabienne Flandre-Herold as a wealthy semi-senile old woman, and a walk-on performance by Angela Morales as Trix the aviatrix. With all this talent, and Patterson at the helm, “;The Drowsy Chaperone”; is the “;sleeper”; hit of the season, a show few here may be familiar with, but one that fans of musical comedies won't want to miss.





        » Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.

» When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 11


» Cost: $12 to $42, all seats reserved; discounts available


>> Info: 733-0274 or www.diamondheadtheatre.com