Backstage Recognition: The Drowsy Chaperone

Sofia Carlisi ’24 and Gloria Yu ’26 in Arts | November 4, 2022

On October 20, Lawrenceville’s annual fall musical The Drowsy Chaperone made its grand debut to the school community. The show featured costumes that brought the Roaring Twenties to life, a hilarious slew of original characters, and a storyline that highlighted the love of theatre in us all. Since this past August, actors, technicians, and faculty members have worked tirelessly to bring this wonderful musical to life. 
One of the most charismatic characters, Aldolpho, the self-proclaimed “king of romance,” had audience members laughing from the moment he stepped on stage. Aldopho was portrayed by Sameer Menghani ’24, who had a “really fun experience” acting as this character. The musical allowed him to “get outside of his comfort zone” and explore a character whom he never thought he would have the chance to play. In the week leading up to opening night, Menghani “felt like the world was ending,” but “in the end, everything ended up being amazing.” Although Menghani has been an avid member of the Periwig Club since his II Formyear, this commitment is “definitely not something that [he] is known for on campus.” Menghani said that he loved how The Drowsy Chaperone allowed “people to see a different side of [him].” Menghani advised anyone who might want to try out acting that “afterward, you will look back and be grateful that you took and chance and helped to create something incredible.” 
As The Drowsy Chaperone's Production Stage Manager, Stephanie Xu ’23 oversaw all backstage jobs. Xu gave us a glimpse of the hustle backstage during rehearsals and the two performances. In the early stages of the production, Xu kept track of blocking—when actors enter and what they do during a scene. She also constantly communicated with the cast, crew, and the musical’s director, Director of Theater Matthew Campbell, to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Xu mentioned that for a musical at the length of The Drowsy Chaperone, “there’s about 200 to 300 light cues” that she had to call. In addition, there were cues for flies like the red, sparkly curtains, the moon, the mirror frame in the tap dancing scene, as well as for props that were manually moved, such as the greenery and the confetti streamers. The start of “Hell-Week,” the week before the show where everyone involved essentially resided in the Kirby Arts Center, marked the first time when “everything starts coming together,” according to Xu. It was a very stressful period of time to pull all the various departments together, but it was also the time when everyone’s main priority was just the musical. Xu recalled, “I would wake up and think about the musical and then go to my classes thinking about the musical, but then once that week’s over, it’s like all of a sudden, oh, there are no more musicals.” Despite the amount of work and time put in as a stage manager, Xu said it was “very rewarding to see how [the show] comes from just being words on paper and being there when the actors read through it the first time to then seeing the actual thing come to fruition.”
Amidst the excitement on stage, the flashy, eye-catching costumes served as a highlight of The Drowsy Chaperone. Gabrielle Lescadre, the costume designer worked alongside Director of Tech James Cuthrell, and she shared her experience designing and creating the costumes for the show. Lescadre loved letting her creativity flow in her work and bringing art to the stage. Between the beginning of preseason to approximately two weeks before the performance, creating the characters’ dresses and suits function as the basis for transforming the audience into the theatrical world. Before costuming, Lescadre and Cuthrell researched fashion in the 1920s. They found inspiration in ’20s showgirls and used “a lot of flashy, sparkly designs” to bring this time period to life.” Designing costumes for different roles, Lescadre explained that “when you are thinking about characters, you want to put them in specific colors.” For example, the Drowsy Chaperone was put in a darker, maroon, color to reflect her maturity as a character. In contrast, Kitty was put in light pinks to portray her youth and femininity. The most difficult part of the process was tailoring, which, according to Lescadre, involves extreme precision. Tailoring also includes seam-ripping, a time-consuming job where one takes every stitch on a seam out one at a time. Lescadre comments humorously that “the tedious things are the things that often aren’t as glamorous about costume design.” The monkey costumes, for example, with the varying lengths of the pants, demanded a lot of tailoring. Additionally, there were two challenging fast costume changes in the show. In one, Eddie Newsom ’23, who played Robert Martin, had to quickly change from tap shoes to roller skates, and the costume team put elastics around his shoes to accommodate for that. The other was when Janet, played by Naa Kwama Ankrah ’23, took off her wrap skirt and swung it around in the music number “Show Off.” Making sure the set costume pieces were intact and did not fall off took some practice and adjustments. When asked about the costume that she most enjoyed designing and making, Lescadre replied “definitely Janet’s wedding dress.” She mentioned how “it just glistened and shined” on stage. Overall, Lescadre stated that the “The Drowsy Chaperone was definitely a really fun show to costume. The 1920s was so glamorous, and it was such a fun show to start my Lawrenceville costume design career off with.”
The Drowsy Chaperone was one of those shows that had audience members engaged from the very first line, and it was only possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many members of the Lawrenceville community!