SummerStage is off and running, and as it has for a while now, Light Opera Oklahoma (LOOK) serves up three productions spanning the bulk of the festival.
SummerStage veterans already know that the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's annual gift to Tulsa brings everything arts, from musicals and theatre productions to concerts and cabaret theatre events.
Of LOOK's offerings this season, the group has already bowed Hello, Dolly! and Side by Side by Sondheim. This week, LOOK debuts its rendition of The Drowsy Chaperone, a delightfully silly farce directed by LOOK head honcho Eric Gibson.
As the artistic director for LOOK, Gibson chose the shows he did for this summer's series in an effort to keep a breezier tone.
"I think that SummerStage needs to be light and not so heavy," he said.
With its wackiness, The Drowsy Chaperone fills the bill.
"I love The Drowsy Chaperone because it's kind of a poop on musicals themselves, so that's fun," Gibson said. "It's always fun to do a play within a play."
The show tells the story of The Man in the Chair (played by Gibson) who has a passion for older musicals and chooses to play the record The Drowsy Chaperone. As the record plays, the musical comes to life in his apartment and the story unfolds to create a dynamic and truly enjoyable tale. While actress Janet Van De Graaff is ready to give up her career for the married life, there are many "buffoonish" characters who have other plans in mind.
With such a wide range of characters, from the bickering couple Robert Martin and Janet Van De Graaff (Peter Brennan and Alixe Ward, respectively) to the self-proclaimed Latin lothario, Aldolpho (Russell McCook) and the "drowsy" (read: "drunk") chaperone (played by Andrea Leap), LOOK's rendition of this show is sure to be one for the books.
"We put our own interpretation on it, but you stick with what works," said Gibson of staging the piece.
Much of the cast and crew is locally based, but there are a few out-of-state pros.
As the music director for LOOK, Andy Anderson conducts Hello, Dolly! and The Drowsy Chaperone, and he comes to us from Mobile Opera out of Alabama, where he serves in the same music-directing capacity. This will be his fourth season with LOOK.
But Anderson isn't the only Mobile native. Patrick Jacobs, a baritone in Hello, Dolly! and The Drowsy Chaperone, has performed as a soloist with many opera companies and orchestras. And he's got a little cred offstage, as well, serving as the voice and opera chair at the University of Mobile. He returns to LOOK for his seventh season.
"Patrick Jacobs has worked for me before, and he's terrific, so I wanted to use him again. I try to choose people that I enjoy. We have people from New York City and people from all over," said Gibson.
One of our local heroes is in his fourth season with LOOK. Peter Brennan plays Robert Martin in Chaperone, Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly! and he appears in Side by Side by Sondheim.
Graduating from TU with a BA in Musical Theatre, Brennan has lived the life of a pro, gigging on land and at sea as an acrobat, singer, dancer, and aerialist. The kid's got game, and he loves bringing it to Tulsa when he can.
"I have worked for Eric three times before, and if I can be in Tulsa for LOOK, I will be," he said. "I definitely wanted to be a part of these shows. It was a no brainer."
The Drowsy Chaperone has more than just hilarious appeal for the audience; it's a favorite of Brennan's, as well.
"It's my favorite because it's hilarious and very wry and very clever and current even though the subject matter is from the 1920s," commented Brennan.
Gibson, acting in one of the musicals and directing all three, seems to be enjoying the task of managing all of the roles that he plays in each of these productions.
"I think when you do multiple shows at one time, it challenges you and uses a different part of your brain and you have to compartmentalize differently," he said.
It seems obvious that Brennan would have to employ the same tactics when playing such drastically different characters in different shows, all rehearsing and performing at the same time. However, as mentioned above, this ain't Brennan's first rodeo.
"It's pretty easy [to keep the roles straight] because they're all so different. Drowsy compared to Hello, Dolly! is a completely different world, even from the moment it starts," said Brennan.
While Chaperone has played in town in the Chapman Music Hall as a touring production, it is believed that this production of The Drowsy Chaperone is the first to be locally produced. Since it's made in Tulsa, it's probably going to be great. Still, it's not the most familiar of titles from the musical theater catalog, but Gibson hopes that won't stop people from showing up."I would encourage people to see something that they don't know, don't be afraid of it. It's produced locally, and I want people to come see it because it's a good show," said Gibson.
Good doesn't quite cover it for Brennan. "It's the best show of the summer," he was quick to say.
Brennan is also enthusiastic about Side by Side by Sondheim -- its two remaining performances are June 23 and 28 -- as well.
"It's going to be really charming -- the material is beautiful. There are only two performances of it so it may be overlooked by some, but it shouldn't be. It will be a wonderful show," advised Brennan.
SummerStage has done an excellent job in the past of providing Tulsa with amazing works of art, and this year is no different.
Opening night for The Drowsy Chaperone is June 21 at 8pm in the John H. Williams Theater at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Remaining performances are June 26 and 29 at 8pm and June 22 and 30 at 2pm.
Tickets to this and all SummerStage shows are available at the Second Street box office, by phone at 918-596-7111, or online at tulsapac.com.
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