“The Drowsy Chaperone”

Our Phillip Rhodes Retrospective continues with
“The Drowsy Chaperone”

Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison
Melbourne Theatre Company, Playhouse, the Arts Centre, Melbourne.
Director: Simon Phillips.
Musical Director: Mathew Frank.
Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth.
Set and Costume Designer: Dale Ferguson.

Run date: 18 January to 27 February 2010 (Season Extended)
Starring Geoffrey Rush, Rhonda Burchmore, Shane Jacobson and Christie Whelan-Browne.

Excerpt from Stage Whispers Review 2010:  “The Drowsy Chaperone is a joyous show-within-a-show tutorial in the simpler delights of 1920s musical comedy. Oscar winning actor, Geoffrey Rush, revels in the role of Man in the Chair, the Commentator, pausing the proceedings to inject comments on the show, by simply lifting the turntable arm. Starring as a die-hard musical theatre fan who invites us into his dreary living room, he drops the needle on his all-time favourite album, an outrageously funny musical from the 1920s, The Drowsy Chaperone, which bursts into life complete with a pampered starlet, gangsters, chorus girls and all manner of mayhem. With a star-studded cast, sequin-drenched costumes and dazzling new production numbers, The Drowsy Chaperone is a jazz-hot trip back to the golden age of musicals when stars had charisma, Broadway had romance and Rodgers had Hart.”

The Melbourne Theatre Company’s Production of the Musical was such a runaway success it sold out almost before the first curtain went up and needed to be extended to meet demand.

Phillip Rhodes, Head milliner to the Melbourne Theatre Company, offers insight into his “behind the scenes” work: 

“The large white brimmed hat was made for Rhonda Burchmore (see below) and was a sort of a sun hat that she wore because she was such an extreme character. The gold cloche was the Leading Lady, Christie Whelan-Browne’s hat and was it was a pastiche sort of design in order to match her outfit.

I chose these pieces for the Retrospective, all interesting in different ways, as they are all very workmanlike. People tend to think that theatre work is rough and it is rough to some point, I think, you do not always finesse everything in the way that you might, but in another way, there is a lot of work in them as they are also have to be quite durable and sometimes you make those choices because, they have to be durable to last the season.


They are also interesting because of what they are and I think, give an insight to the way you think about things and how you design and when I look at them now, I think to myself, I wonder why I did that, but it is probably because in the pressure of time of just getting it all done, you just have to pursue, you have to progress. There is not always time to actually go back and think, I could have done that better. You’ve just got to keep going, once it’s been made and once it’s been finalised and then of course, it is on the stage.

The great thing about stage design is that, in a way the “puppets eye” fills in a lot of the details for us anyway.  So we see something and imagine it in a certain way that it mightn’t actually be.”