The Drowsy ChaperoneThe Drowsy Chaperone, the musical within the musical of the same name, is rife with scenery-chewing actors, terrible puns and ancient vaudeville gags. The musical we're watching, The Drowsy Chaperone, is similarly packed with deft performances, clever wordplay and an infectious sense of fun. Tari Kelly's Jazz Age showgirl, Janet Van De Graaff, is a coquettish beauty who does everything but set fire to the stage in her big number, "Show Off." The Chaperone, played with bibulous verve by Christianne Tisdale, is glib and cutting, a perfect foil to her charge's enthusiasm. And then there's Aldolpho, the caricatured lothario performed as series of thrusting comedic explosions by Edward Juvier — he's not for the faint or the prim. All of these exuberantly broad characters are balanced by the melancholy Man in Chair (David Schmittou), our narrator and point of entry to the musical. Schmittou is wryly funny and engagingly gossipy, filling us on the back-stories of the actors and pointing out the flaws in the show, while unabashedly loving every clunky moment. In the interest of criticism, one shortcoming of this delightful musical will now be entered into the record: It ended and the lights came back up. Presented by Stages St. Louis through August 16 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets are $48 ($28 for children, $45 for seniors; rush seats for students and seniors $15 at the door). Call 314-821-2407 or visit www.stagesstlouis.org.
— Paul Friswold
Twelfth Night Shakespeare's two-pronged comedy is a visually appealing endeavor, thanks to Jennifer JC Krajicek's Jazz-Age-by-way-of-Mardi-Gras costumes and some antic physical performances. Prong the first — Viola-disguised-as-Cesario (Courtney Merrell)'s attempts to woo Olivia (Vanessa Waggoner) for her master Orsino (Khnemu Menu-Ra) while she secretly wishes to win Orsino's love herself — is well told and well played by all parties. But prong the second — the efforts of Sir Toby Belch (Richard Lewis, dreadfully louche) to fleece his friend Andrew Auguecheek (a delightfully dim and enthusiastic Tom Glessner) and outfox the priggish Malvolio (Aaron Orion Baker) — is by far the more entertaining tale. Baker's sanctimonious sneer and pompous declarations are matched by Lewis' stagger and burp (and eventually outmatched by his alcohol-fueled plotting), while Glessner twits about like an ungainly bird. Director Carolyne Hood manages both storylines well, but the comic revenge tale is livelier and more vibrant — especially if you're the type who takes ale with your cakes and thus fall prey to its well-lubricated charms. Presented by St. Louis Shakespeare at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25 (students $15, seniors $20). Call 314-361-5664 or visit www.stlshakespeare.org. (PF)