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Friday, April 12, 2024

The Drowsy Chaperone is a summer tonic for the modern blues

Unconventional musical comedy plays on alternating nights with Mary Poppins at Stanley Park's Malkin Bowl

They say art can be a respite from our troubles. This summer, that relief comes in the form of the Theatre Under the Stars presentation of the Tony Award-winning Canadian musical The Drowsy Chaperone.

“It’s incredibly funny, but also really moving in an unexpected way and is a perfect kind of tonic for the world right now, and the scary dark times we live in,” says Shawn Macdonald who plays the lead role, known as Man in Chair.

Sharing the Malkin Bowl stage in Stanley Park on alternating nights with Mary Poppins, the storyline of The Drowsy Chaperone is deceptively simple: as the Man in Chair listens to the cast recording of a 1920’s musical, the characters suddenly make an appearance in his living room.

The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical within a comedy,” explains Macdonald. “It is an unconventional musical about a lonely man who, while listening to his favourite musical in his apartment, is suddenly surrounded by it as it bursts to life around him.”

While a celebration of early musicals, highlighted by motifs and moments that harken back to Cole Porter and jazz giants, Macdonald says The Drowsy Chaperone still manages to speak across generations, with its universally relatable tale about loneliness wrapped inside the wonders of a large-scale musical.

“This man is absolutely in love with this silly light musical. This is the record he goes to when he’s feeling blue. When the world begins to impinge upon his record listening experience he absolutely explodes. He hates the invasions, even the phone ringing will make him crazy.” says Macdonald.

It really does make you leave the theatre feeling really wonderful, and you have given yourself a reprieve TO what’s been in the news right now. – Shawn MacDonald

The feelings generated in the musical are what Macdonald says is at the heart of The Drowsy Chaperone. In a world continually encroaching on our valuable mental space it can be more and more difficult to connect with those around us.

“I hope it does offer a respite from the feeling that Vancouver is a place where people can’t connect,” he says. “This play is really about loneliness, sadness, and mental health. Mental health is something that we are more conscious of and to have someone who is struggling with depression, really is incredible.”

Macdonald also sees The Drowsy Chaperone speaking to the disconnect of modern life, leaving audiences knowing they are not alone. It is a  message he says is perfect for our modern world.

“My character has a line where he says, ‘this does what a musical is supposed to do, it gives you a little something to escape the dreary horrors of the world’,” says Macdonald. “It really does make you leave the theatre feeling really wonderful, and you have given yourself a reprieve to what’s been in the news right now. In my opinion, it couldn’t be better timing.”

The Drowsy Chaperone plays Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl in repertory with Mary Poppins until August 19.  Visit for tickets and information.

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