Open Forum

Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

  • 1.  Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-29-2018 15:16
    Hi all again,

    I am leaning towards Drowsy Chaperone for my high school's musical this year. I had two questions for those who have done it before now that I've seen it multiple times and read through it a bunch:

    1. What have you done with the chorus? I'm expecting as a possible "high" number somewhere around 20-22 students. I know there isn't much of a chorus written into the show, how did others overcome this?

    2. THAT scene. What have other teachers done about "Message From A Nightingale"? I LOVE the song, concept, joke, everything about the scene, and understand why it is there. People I have spoken to in person have just said to lean into it and do it as written, since Man in Chair comes out seconds later and explains it to be old fashioned and offensive.


    Andrew Fallu

  • 2.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-30-2018 07:13
    I did Drowsy a few years ago, and it sticks with me as one of the most fun shows I've directed.  We even had a surprise visit from Lisa Lambert, the lyricist at one of the performances and she loved it.

    1) Chorus - There are plenty of places to add (Fancy Dress, Show Off, Toledo Surprise, the Bride's Lament, the Finale).  Our cast was around 18-19 total.  Cast them as other wedding guests, Janet's entourage, house staff, etc.  I forget where, but we had a group of tap dancing maids at one point.

    2) Nightingale - First off, I used ensemble members for the roles instead of how it's written to be Drowsy and Aldopho.  Then we used almost life-sized "flat puppets" in the scene.  It made the scene look so different from the rest of the show, that it was obviously wrong.  You just have to go with it, if you shy away and your actors are apologetic, then the audience won't laugh at the joke.

    Good Luck!!

  • 3.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-30-2018 08:18
    Good morning,

    Agree with Justin. Plenty of room for a cast of 20. As for question #2 just go for it, no regrets. I like your solution Justin.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 4.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-31-2018 09:16
    I just did this show last April and it was VERY well received. Everyone will tell you they’ve never heard of it but then come up to you after to say it’s their new favorite show. Plus I move for all shows to be cut down to 90 minutes haha. It gave us time for so much more polishing than we usually have.

    1. I had a cast of about 25. My chorus members were split into wait staff and reporters/wedding guests. The reporters group were my stronger dancers and I used them as featured dancers in Show Off and Bride’s Lament. My Robert was a very strong tapper so I let him have cold Feets to himself, but I have heard of adding a tap chorus to that song as well.
    My wait staff were used for the scene changes- it was perfectly in character for them and they would dust and tidy things up throughout the show. They also were used in Stumble Along to move the Chaperone around on a rolling ottoman. I usually had them onstage for Janet’s numbers as well, just singing in the back while “at attention” to fill in the sound while the reporters danced.
    The full ensemble was used in the opening number, the second half of Toledo surprise and the closing number- they formed the body of the airplane for I Do, I Do and held up clouds in the back.

    2. I was conflicted about doing this scene but ultimately kept it because I think it’s a good teaching moment on racial insensitivity of the time. I had conversations with my cast, clarifying that this wasn’t to make fun of Asian cultures but to make fun of the ignorance. I did the scene as written but told the actors they HAD to make it as cartoony as possible- the moment you make it more like king and I and less like a Warner brothers cartoon is when you’ll be in trouble. I had NO negative reaction to it (which surprised me)- I would imagine because the man in chair makes the purpose of it so clear.

    Good luck! It really became one of my favorite shows through the rehearsal process!

    Mr. Benjamin Cossitor
    Instructor of English/Drama
    Altoona Area High School
    1415 6th Ave
    Altoona, PA 16602
    (814) 327-9076

  • 5.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-30-2018 11:21
    Someone else can talk about the chorus since I did the show with no chorus.

    There is no way on earth I could have done THAT scene so I asked for and got permission to cut it.

    Everyone loved drowsy chaperone so you’ll have lots of fun with the show.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 6.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 02-07-2020 15:27
    How did you get permission to cut it? I just called MTI and they said that you absolutely cannot cut a song.

    Emily Mokrycki
    Omaha Burke High School, Theatre Director
    Nebraska Thespians, Co-Chapter Director

  • 7.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-31-2018 01:58
    Oh, please, please produce this show.  We did it a few years ago, and it lives in our community's memory as one of the best we've ever done.

    We had the same challenge: how do you expand a show that was written for a small cast? Our solutions were in total agreement with all of those mentioned in earlier responses.  We had a huge chorus of maids/butlers/servants at the Tottendale Estate.  They contributed to all of large group numbers: Fancy Dress, Show Off, Bride's Lament, I Do in the Sky, etc.  We even had an ensemble of maids come on during Cold Feets, to do a big huge tap number with Robert and George. We basically treated the Tottendale Estate as a sort of resort, so there were always many characters on hand: tennis pros, aestheticians, golf pros, maids, butlers, etc. It was a hoot.

    Regarding "Message from a Nightingale," I say go for it. It is imperative, however, that you cut it off immediately after - or during the last phrase of - the Emperor's verse.  The device of having Man in Chair run on, apologize, and explain the context is perfect.  The joke slayed our audiences.  And I had several people of Asian heritage approach me afterward to say something like, "Um...I thought that I was about to be really mad,  but then Man in Chair explained it and then I thought it was hysterical." Because his commentary totally adresses the elephant in the room. If you embrace the ridiculousness of the thing, then it will land properly.  It was a great expense and effort to create the new environment for that number, but the payoff was totally worth it, and the writing does the work for you.

    Good luck!

    Eric McNaughton
    Theatre Director
    Marist School

  • 8.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 07-31-2018 02:00
    I actually had about 25 or so in my cast for Drowsy Chaperone.  The chorus had a wonderful time.  We had maids and butlers in "Fancy Dress" and party guests who entered when all the other characters were introduced.  We had extras in "Show Off" and several monkeys and a ringmaster in "Bride's Lament."

    As for "Nightingale", we went all in and had a chorus of girls and guys in Oriental costumes.  They played it seriously and kept going right into what should be offensive lyrics - but when Man in the Chair rushes in apologetically to stop the music and explain that the number was from a different show which was offensive in many ways, he expresses everything the audience could have been feeling and turns it completely into comedy.  It's a genius construct in my opinion and this show is one of my favorites.  Enjoy it!

    Bonnie Wilson
    Scottsdale AZ

  • 9.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 08-05-2018 10:58

    I LOVE THIS SHOW, we had great success with it. It truly is a vehicle to show off the talent of 8 students, it isn't ideal for showing off your chorus. BUT...

    1) You can definitely have a chorus, I had at least two butlers and two maids and 10+ clouds at the end, I added everyone in for the record skipping and "wedding guests" and "bridesmaids.' It is doable and kind of fun to see where you can interject people. You can also use your chorus to help with scene changes and such. 

    2) I Started the scene, let it play out to an awkward/laughter point and then cut the song. Some areas you can get away with the song/use it as a learning opportunity, it was better for us to use it for a laugh but then cut it.

    Hope you have as much fun as I did! Break a leg!

    Day Strickland
    Wheeler HS Theatre Teacher/Director
    Atlanta GA

  • 10.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 02-08-2020 18:04
    My troupe co-director just staged this show in December (her second production of it here; she first did it in 2012), and she retained the scene in both productions.

    As others have pointed out, the show is written in a way that explains how racist musicals of the 1920s could seem by today's standards, so it's not that the show itself is racist.  It's the fictional show-within-the-show that is racist, and the frame show condemns the fictional show for it.

    This time out with the show, my co-director chose to cast the super with a different school staff member each night - an English teacher and two guidance counselors.  One of those counselors happens to be of proud Philippine ancestry, and she sponsors our school's Multicultural Club.  The night after her performance, she came back to see the whole show, and the "Nightingale" sequence was one of her favorite parts.  (I saw her during the scene - she was almost falling out of her chair from laughing so hard.)  She told me after the show that that scene was both horrifying and funny at the same time, but that just before she could get offended by it, the joke became clear, and became valuable as a lesson in how much cultural attitudes can change.

    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL

  • 11.  RE: Two Drowsy Chaperone Questions

    Posted 02-09-2020 11:08
    Love this! I will for sure use this information with my administration in our discussion of the scene. Thanks so much! 
    Emily Mokrycki

    "All the best performers bring their role something more, something different than what the  author put on paper. That's what makes theatre live. That's why it persists." --Stephen Sondheim