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Student play makes audiences far from ‘Drowsy’

Courtesy of Stephanie Lefeld

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a play that centers on one man’s love of one musical. It was also clearly a love shared by members of Off the Lake Productions, an Ohio State theater group, in their lively production of the quirky musical comedy.

The Ohio State student-run theater group, Off the Lake Productions, wrapped up its spring production of this little-known Broadway gem about a colorful narrator, known only as the “Man in Chair” who shares the cast recording of his favorite 1920s musical entitled “The Drowsy Chaperone” with the audience. The fictional musical he adores is set during the Prohibition era and is about a wedding that almost doesn’t happen.

The premise might seem confusing, but directors Johnny Robinson, a third-year in accounting, and Kelsey Tschanen, a third-year in history, staged the show beautifully.

The action takes place in the man’s apartment, and whenever the cast recording plays, his imagination brings to life a rousing musical with a cast of nearly 40 actors.

The cast brought some remarkable talent and an infectious, enthusiastic energy which compensated for some less-than-perfect singers and dancers.

Tyler Rogols, a sixth-year in music, was a natural for his role as Man in Chair. He was funny, charming and had spot-on timing. Throughout the show, Man in Chair interrupts the action to share his thoughts on the show or life in general. Rogols didn’t miss a moment to entertain but also didn’t draw focus from the action at inappropriate times, which is really important because he rarely left the stage during the show.

Justin LaBelle, a third-year in history, and Hannah Schwieterman, a second-year in accounting, were lovable as the engaged couple, Robert and Janet. LaBelle sang, tap-danced and roller-skated while blindfolded, and he did it all with style. Schwieterman had great comedic-timing and a voice that wouldn’t quit. She had the audience rolling with laughter during her big number, “Show off.”

The other couple that stole the audience’s hearts was Jenna Shively, a third-year in theatre, and Nick Navaratnam, a second-year in finance. Shively, who played the alcoholic title character, has a Broadway-quality voice and equally impressive acting chops. Her drunken anthem, “As We Stumble Along,” had the audience laughing hysterically one second and utterly entranced the next.

Navaratnam, who played a European stereotype named Adolpho, did not have the vocal skill of Shively, but his physical comedy was impeccable.

The duo stole scenes and left me debating which couple I liked most.

Admission to Off the Lake shows is a single non-perishable food item, which they donate the local food bank. I think you’ll struggle to find a better deal for entertainment on OSU’s campus.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” and Off the Lake really fit well together. They both leave you wondering what is going to happen next but confident that whatever comes, it will be fun.

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