Community theater tries something new
Woodside Community Theatre is trying something new when it presents the Bay Area premier of the Tony award-winning musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone," on Oct. 29, 30 and 31 and Nov. 5, 6 and 7 at Woodside High School Performing Arts Center.
The show has a smaller cast than usual — 25 performers — with no children under 17 and no large chorus. It's also a departure from the classic musicals WCT has put on for years.
Director Dan Demers calls "The Drowsy Chaperone" "the antithesis of Fiddler," referring to last year's production, "Fiddler on the Roof."
"We wanted something that was new, current and fresh, something that would take the audience away from what's going on, so it can relax, have fun and enjoy the theater," Mr. Demers said.
This is his first time directing this group. In the past he has directed at Hillbarn Theatre and Serra School.
A show within a show, "The Drowsy Chaperone" ran on Broadway, and earned five Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Book and Best Music. Bob Martin and Don McKellar wrote the book; Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison composed the music and lyrics.
Set in the 1920s, the comedy starts with a man listening to show tunes in his living room when suddenly a full-blown musical springs to life centered around a Broadway starlet seeking love.
Elizabeth Santana of San Jose plays that part, reined in at times by The Drowsy Chaperone, or Darlene Batchelder of Woodside. She describes her role as a "diva — she's big and bold and does everything she wants to do."
This season is Ms. Batchelder's fifth season with WCT. Her husband, Darrel, is in the ensemble after appearing in several WCT shows, as well. She launched her acting career when she was a student at Woodside High a few decades ago, and played Yenta in WCT's production last year.
Ms. Batchelder sees this year's show as an entirely different experience. "It's really an ensemble cast of people who've had leads in shows," she says.
Ron Lopez, for example, who plays The Man in the Chair or narrator of this musical, had a big part in WCT's "Guys N Dolls," and so did Damian Marhefka who is appearing as Aldolpho. Cheryl Ringman plays another lead, Kitty, in her seventh WCT show.
Mrs. Tottendale is portrayed by Brenda Harris who started her acting career at age 7 as Imogene Coca's daughter on TV.
Co-producer Claudia McCarley describes the music as "very upbeat; it takes off from the Golden Age of musicals and is a parody on all of those."
Ms. McCarley has appeared in many WCT productions since the group was revived in 2003, but this time around she's taking a break from the stage to produce, and watch her daughter, Jacquie, perform in the ensemble.
Co-producer Donna Losey is back producing and supporting her actress daughter, Brigitte. This is Brigitte's eighth WCT show. The same holds true for fellow Woodside High senior LeeAnn Patrick. They're both in the ensemble.
Ms. Patrick's family is glad to live in Woodside close to rehearsals because her father, Akio, is the set designer and technical director, and mother, Karen, is in charge of costumes. Many of the costumes were rented from a theater in Illinois, but some have been borrowed locally from Woodside High and Palo Alto Players.
Mark Bowles of Woodside is the stage manager and is also co-producing with Mindy Bowles.
Richard Gordon of Woodside is back again this year as music director. Kristin Pfeifer is the choral director. Gennine Harrington returns as choreographer, and Don and Catherine Coluzzi are back as lighting designers.
Other locals in the ensemble include Jesus Miranda who graduated from Woodside High and now attends Foothill College; identical twins Hannah and Sarah Velichko, who are studying drama at Caņada College; and Lorien French of Woodside.
Go to woodsidetheatre.com or call 206-9282 for tickets. Tickets are $22 for adults, $15 for children high school-age and under, and $20 for those 65 and over.
The evening shows are on Oct. 29 and 30 and Nov. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. The matinees are on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 199 Churchill Ave. in Woodside.