As the resident ghost of the Edith Mortenson Center theater, I’ve seen more than my fair share of Augustana productions. While many are — and I mean this with the utmost condescension — rather good shows, I must admit there have been some misses.
“Murder on the Orient Express”? It’s been done. “Ada and the Engine”? They started singing out of nowhere, and what’s with Lord Byron’s pirate boots? And that’s to say nothing of previous years’ productions. I must object to any show that includes a number called something as ridiculous as “Naked in a Lake.”
However, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” directed by professor Jayna Fitzsimmons, was admittedly a wonderful production.
The show was blessed with an incredibly talented cast. There are several stand-outs.
Junior Magdalen Eberle as the title character was perfectly drowsy and a believable alcoholic in the theatrical sense — by which I mean I would not be surprised if she’d never touched alcohol in her life.
Sophomore Xavier Carbonneau as Man in Chair was wonderful, and as usual, he managed to age the character up despite being only about 20 years old himself.
Freshman Emma Boyens has an astoundingly beautiful voice and brought life and joy to a character who was clearly only getting married for money. I mean, how interesting can stories about “oil interests” really be? I must also commend costume designer Cindy Bakke here: four or five costume changes in just one song!
On the topic of costumes, I must point out that I’m a ghost, and even I know that those monkey suits were the stuff of nightmares. And yet, in the context of the show, they worked quite well. I have only devoted a few sleepless nights to thoughts of terrifying dancing monkeys.
For the first time in Edith Mortenson Center theater history, the production also included a live pit ensemble. Such a collaboration between the School of Music and the theater department was wonderful to see, and I do hope it happens again.
Jacee Casarella’s set design was, as usual, impressive and visually interesting. I especially enjoyed the Murphy Bed and the secret door through the book shelf. It truly felt as if the entire show took place in a single man’s apartment. It was so clever to have props come out of the set itself, pulled from kitchen drawers and cabinets.
Speaking of props, senior Maddie McElroy and freshman Mikennah Oleson did very well as designers. They made cameras that actually flashed and persisted through fixing Aldolpho’s cane multiple times.
My personal favorite number was “I Do, I Do in the Sky.” It’s been a while since the Augustana theater department did something like land a plane on the stage, and I do love a happy ending.