'The Drowsy Chaperone' sure to keep the audience laughing

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., Oct. 19, 2011
Manchester resident Nicole Giguere rehearses the title role in 'The Drowsy Chaperone' with Kristen Shaw of Tolland (right) in the role of 'Janet Vandergraff'.' The role of 'Man in Chair' is filled by Ellington resident Chad Shipley (left). Photos by Martha Marteney.
Manchester resident Nicole Giguere rehearses the title role in 'The Drowsy Chaperone' with Kristen Shaw of Tolland (right) in the role of 'Janet Vandergraff'.' The role of 'Man in Chair' is filled by Ellington resident Chad Shipley (left). Photos by Martha Marteney.

“It's the funniest and best show you've never heard of,” said Todd Santa Maria, director of the Little Theatre of Manchester's production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The Tony-award winning musical first opened in New York City five years ago. LTM's is the first community theater production of the show in Connecticut. “We're making it our own,” said Santa Maria. “The only thing we go on is the script.” He described the play as “a traditional book musical” where the songs progress the story.

Although Santa Maria has been with LTM for five years as an actor and choreographer, this is his first time in the role of director. When not at LTM, Santa Maria is the director of Communications and Marketing for the Gunnery Boarding School in Washington, Conn.

The inspiration for this “musical within a comedy” comes from “Man in Chair,” played by Chad Shipley of Ellington. “All that's happening is because I'm imagining it,” said Shipley of his character's role. Shipley had taken a 21-year break from acting. Two near-fatal car crashes caused him to “rethink his priorities” and get back on stage. “If you are in need of a good time, this is the place to be,” said Shipley. When not on stage, Shipley is the IT director at a major insurance company.

“The title doesn't really do it justice,” said Kristen Shaw, of Tolland, who performs the role of Janet Vandergraff. “I have trouble keeping a straight face,” she admitted. “There's a lot of surprises in store.”

Shaw joined LTM in 2009 and worked backstage with props, served as assistant stage manager and choreographed the summer musical review. “I kind of fell in love with the place,” she said. “It was nice to get back into performing art.” Shaw teaches art at the Lutz Children's Museum and the New Britain Museum of Art.

As musical director, Angela Klimaytis, of Somers, is responsible for teaching the cast the vocal parts, preparing the pit orchestra, playing the piano and conducting the music. “The music is fun and really funny,” said Klimaytis. “It has an old style with a modern twist.”

“It's going to be a fun night that will have you leaving the theater in a great mood,” said Klimaytis. This is her second year with LTM as the musical director. She freelances for other theaters, as well.

The Little Theatre of Manchester's production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is sponsored by 2011 season sponsor Pratt and Whitney, and production sponsors First Niagara Bank and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. Opening night is Friday, Nov. 4. There is no intermission, but refreshments will be available for purchase prior to curtain time. Little of Theatre of Manchester is located in Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road.

The production runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. on Nov. 4-6, 10-13 and 18-20. Ticket prices vary; there are student and senior discounts. For the Friday, Nov. 11 show only, veterans may purchase tickets two for one on general admission seats.  Ticket may be ordered by calling 860-647-9824, through the website cheneyhall.org or at the Cheney Hall box office, which is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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