Long before the curtain rises, the cast and crew of the Periwig Club have been giving their all to put on a truly magical performance. On October 20 and 21, during Family Weekend, this year’s Fall Musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, will premiere in the Kirby Arts Center (KAC).
The Drowsy Chaperone is a satirical jazz comedy and homage to the Golden-Age of musicals. The show follows the “Man in Chair,” portrayed by Eric Frankel ’23, as he is transported into a musical in a 1928 Broadway Theater. The musical is all about fun and is full of eccentric, bold characters and witty jokes. “I love this show because it’s a fun comedy with many funny and romantic moments, and I think the students will really find it enjoyable to watch,” said Stephanie Xu ’23, this year’s production stage manager.
Anoushka Sharma ’23 plays the titular character, a goofy, optimistic alcoholic who embodies the spirit of the show. “I definitely would not want to mimic her drinking habits, of course, but there is something to be said about her grit and ability to push through all the noise and adversity she faces. I think that’s an important skill for all of us here at Lawrenceville and just in life in general,” Sharma noted.
Unlike Sharma’s character, “Man in Chair” is separated from the main action, serving as a sort of narrator of the musical within the musical. However, this does not stop him from contributing wholeheartedly to the show. Upon reading the description of the role, Frankel decided, “That’s me. This is my role and if I don’t get it, I’m going to burn down the KAC.”
This enthusiasm is shared by many other members of the Periwig Club, including Sofia Carlisi ’24, the student director for the show. Carlisi said she will never forget the first time she got to direct a scene. “I got to look at my ideas…then see them out there. It was just so fun!”
Frankel said that “A typical rehearsal always involves me running a minute or two late and [Xu] yelling at me.” Depending on their role in the musical, students can spend up to 12 hours a week rehearsing. Typical rehearsals fall into three main categories: staging, choreography, and singing. Staging rehearsals are led by Chair of the Performing Arts Department Matthew Campbell and center around blocking (figuring out how actors move during a scene). Choreography rehearsals led by Director of Dance Derrick Wilder involve working with the ensemble through the dances for each song. In singing rehearsals, the cast sits around a piano and practices their respective parts of each musical number. In addition to scheduled rehearsals, the cast must independently practice their songs, dances, and lines.
The cast and faculty aren’t the only ones who have dedicated their time and effort to the musical. Much work is put in behind the scenes by the tech crew, set designers, costume designers, student director, Carlisi, and stage manager, Xu. The time and effort required to piece together all the moving parts of the musical culminate in what is affectionately known as “hell week.”
Hell week, the grueling tech week for the musical, is the last week before opening night. During hell week, the cast spends time cleaning up their performances, while the crew spends hours working on props, lights, sound, and sets to make sure that everything will run smoothly on opening night. As opening night comes closer and closer, excitement runs high. As stage manager, Xu is essential for making sure the show goes smoothly; she is in charge of calling cues and managing and communicating with the crew, directing team, and cast. Communication is especially important during hell week. Xu says that although “Hell week definitely lives up to its name, it’s also the most rewarding week…I usually get back to the House around 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM; however, it always feels like the show ends sooner than expected, and I know for sure I will miss all of the rehearsal moments!”
While it involves a lot of work, the process of putting the musical together is quite rewarding. Xu said she enjoys watching all the pieces come together and “the progress of the cast in learning the music and the dances.” She also enjoys getting “to watch the set and costumes get designed and built from scratch. It’s truly a magical opportunity.”
Sharma loves the sense of community she gets from building something with other people. There’s “just something so unique about telling a story live, not only because the cast and crew become a very close community, but also because you’re actively building and bridging that community with the audience in real-time,” says Sharma.
Similarly, Carlisi loves being with others who love theater the way she does. Through the musical, she has learned a lot from Campbell, saying, “It's so fun to see the way that his mind works, he’s like a genius. He has everything in his head. I wanna be like him. He’s so good at what he does.” She has also developed meaningful relationships with other Periwig members, like Claire Jiang ’24. Carlisi says, “I love her. We’ve done every show together, and it’s so fun.”
If you are looking to support your teammates and classmates, have a good laugh, or simply occupy your parents for a few hours, join the Periwig Club in the KAC for a show that looks for the joy in life “as we stumble along.”