It’s a fact — the annual spring musical offered by the Shelter Island Drama Club is a huge deal. Island residents know that one weekend each year they can count on seeing friends and neighbors filling the seats of the school auditorium for a crisply produced and entertaining theatrical experience.
Last week John Kaasik, long-time director of the spring musical, took a break in his schedule to sit down in the auditorium and talk with the Reporter about this year’s offering, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which opens Thursday, April 7, for a weekend run.
The play, which opened on Broadway in 2006, won five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards. Though perhaps not as well-known as many Broadway musicals, within the script of “The Drowsy Chaperone” Mr. Kaasik recognized several tongue-in-cheek references to other famous shows, such as “Anything Goes,” which he believes audiences will find appealing.
“There’s a lot of satire,” he said. “The plot is absolutely non-existent, corny and simplistic. It’s just a nice fresh take on musicals.”
“I love the music of this play, I think it’s beautiful,” Mr. Kaasik added. “It has good, catchy tunes and lot of these kids and their parents will be whistling them.”
The action of “The Drowsy Chaperone” takes place in the mind of a narrator — an agoraphobic man (in this case played by a female, senior Kelly Colligan) who sits alone in his apartment listening to a record of a 1920s musical, which he envisions in full on stage.
After auditioning for one of the female leads in the show, Ms. Colligan admits she was surprised to learn she was cast as the “Man in Chair.”
“When John told me I was the narrator, I said, ‘Are you joking? I’m not a man,’” Ms. Colligan recalled in a phone interview. “But he had total confidence in me that I didn’t have.”
Ms. Colligan likens the farcical nature of the musical to another she was in a few years back at the school — “Zombie Prom.”
“It was crazy and reminded me of this show because no one had heard of it,” Ms. Colligan said. “It was kind of out there and it was my favorite. This is another one that will surprise audiences.”
Though she loves the on-stage silliness of this show, Ms. Colligan admits that her favorite part of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is that every audience member is likely to fall in love with a different character on stage.
“Usually there are one or two roles the whole audience favors, but in this show every character is so dynamic and unique,” Ms. Colligan said. “It’s so overwhelming. I’ve never seen a show with so many things going on at the same time.”
One of Ms. Colligan’s co-stars in “The Drowsy Chaperone is fellow senior, Serina Kaasik, who plays Janet Van De Graaf. Ms. Kaasik explained that Janet is a self-obsessed show girl who loves the spotlight, but she’s giving it all up to marry Robert Martin, the man she loves. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a cast of characters trying to derail the marriage in order to keep Janet performing on stage and making money for the producers.
“It’s fun being over-the-top [playing] that dramatic show girl,” Ms. Kaasik said in a phone interview. “It’s something I’ve never done before. Everything’s so exaggerated in her.”
Like many students in the play, Ms. Kaasik researched the era in which it’s set and noted her familiarity with the 1920s came mainly from old movies and books like “The Great Gatsby.”
“I get the whole flapper feeling and the girl’s rebellion,” said Ms. Kaasik. “I did some research on things like the hair and the clothing. We’re trying to reenact as much as we can.”
For Ms. Kaasik, this production is truly bittersweet. Her father has directed the school musical for some 10 years while her mother, Anu, has always worked alongside him as producer. As the youngest of four siblings, even before she was old enough to be on stage, Ms. Kaasik spent much of her youth in the auditorium watching older siblings and earlier generations of students go through the theater program.
This will be her last show on the school stage.
“I’m very sad,” Ms. Kaasik said. “It’s been such a huge part of my life at Shelter Island. But we’re going out with a bang.”
“The Drowsy Chaperone” runs Thursday, April 7 through Sunday, April 10 at the Shelter Island School. Shows are Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets (adults $12/students $8) are available in the school lobby during school hours.