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West Shore school cast turns back time, opens refrigerator door to charm

Over 40 students are putting on the musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone from March 7-10

The entrance to the stage for the 1920s-clad characters is something a little cooler – a refrigerator.

Set in an apartment, the musical is a merging of two worlds: the real one, with a sofa and appliances, and the fantastic one that happens as “Man in Chair”, a middle-aged, feeling-blue musical theatre fan, imagines the fictional 1928 show The Drowsy Chaperone set to the sounds of one of his LP’s.

It’s this magical fantasy of a world that Belle Warner, teacher and director of the school musical at Belmont Secondary School, chose to recreate when they selected The Drowsy Chaperone for their high school’s production which launches March 7.

“It was done twice in Qualicum Beach which was my home theatre community and I saw it done both times and it’s a show –,” Warner pauses. “People come through a refrigerator. It’s a door to the show. And how can you not love a show that has a refrigerator that is used as an entrance?” they said.

Warner goes on to describe the musical.

“It’s a lovely little show about a man in an apartment sharing his favourite musical with the audience and it’s really silly. It has all of the charm of really old musicals alongside modern humour.”

Last year’s school production, Once Upon a Mattress, had a lot of characters and Warner knew they needed to do something similar.

“We have so much talent, so many enthusiastic kids. I want to do a show that has big characters but also has a chance for them to shine,” they said.

This year, so many students were interested (there are “40-something” kids involved) that the show ended up being double-casted, which Warner said has been a lot of extra work but has allowed more students stage time. “There’s been a lot of growth in the program,” Warner said.

Naiya Dowker, 18, is one of those students and plays Janet Van De Graaf, a 1920s starlet who is conflicted about giving up her vivacious life on the stage to marry Rober Martin.

“My character is really confident and really sure of herself which I feel is not really who I am off the stage, but it’s fun to be that person,” Dowker said.

“I think when you get in the costume and you have the hair and makeup done, you become the character and it all comes out.”

“I just really like being on stage because I feel my most confident self,” Dowker said.

Alexander Robinson, 17, who plays Underling, the head of staff for the hostess of the wedding, said he enjoys the challenge of being his character.

“With Underling it’s an interesting mixture of being stone-faced with having witty reactions to things so I have to find a spot in between,” Robinson said.

The musical is also full of choreography (done by an EA and one of the dance teachers), singing, dynamic costumes and a full set made by the stagecraft class, which Warner said was a bonus. Last year, the set was done after school but this year it was included in the classroom curriculum and Warner points out how great it is. The rest of the production is all extracurricular, showing the dedication of the students.

Assistant manager in stage management, Fernanda Araiza, said the whole experience has opened her eyes to career options after high school.

“I personally would really think about it. Because I’m too shy to act, but I love the feeling of a family you get just by being in a theatre company, and you get to … help build it all together,” Araiza said.

For Warner, this is their second year running the school’s production and there is lots that they love about it. Warner’s favourite part is the connections made, both between departments in the school and with the students.

“Having connections with students and providing the opportunity for them to shine. I grew up doing a lot of theatre on stage and I think the best thing is giving them the opportunity to really shine on stage and providing those places for them to do what gave me a lot of joy when I was a student.”

Tickets for The Drowsy Chaperone are $10 for adults, $5 for students and can be purchased at the door or at The show runs March 7, 8, 9 at 7 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m. at Belmont Secondary School’s theatre.

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Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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