Musical Comes to Life in a New York Apartment

Musical Comes to Life in a New York Apartment

Westfield Summer Stage presents ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’

Posing in character are (from left) Scarlett Spano, Jonah Hilbert, Jonah Uffelman and Sammy Hayes.

Posing in character are (from left) Scarlett Spano, Jonah Hilbert, Jonah Uffelman and Sammy Hayes. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Bonnie Hobbs/The Connection

Jonah Uffelman and Sammy Hayes as Robert and Janet on their wedding day.


Each year, Westfield Summer Stage gives audiences the chance to see some of the most talented high-school thespians from throughout Fairfax County. And its upcoming production, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” is no exception.

Featuring a cast and crew of nearly 60, plus a live orchestra of 13, this rousing musical comedy takes the stage Wednesday-Thursday, July 12-13, and Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 at the door and $15 via, and performances are at Westfield High, 4700 Stonecroft Blvd. in Chantilly.

Gregory Stowers, who was the theater teacher at Katherine Johnson Middle School in Fairfax City and will hold that post at Justice High in the fall, is directing Westfield Summer Stage for the fourth year. And although the actors only get 3-1/2 weeks to rehearse, he said things are going really well.

“We have lots of recent high-school graduates who are going to study musical theater in college,” he said. “And I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve become performance-ready for this show. In every sense of the word, they’re young professionals.”

The story is a play within a play and is narrated by a character simply called “the man in the chair.” He loves musical theater and, while listening to a recording of his favorite show, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” he talks to the audience about it – while that entire musical comes to life in his apartment – as if the actors were on a Broadway stage.

“I chose this show because it came out while I was in high school, and it was the show we were obsessed with, like kids today are with the musicals, ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Six,’” explained Stowers. “And it’s a love letter to Broadway, is tongue-in-cheek and has great music.”

In addition, he said, “I wanted to give the students a chance to grow as actors by playing characters not their ages and different from their own experiences. And the audience will relate to the man in the chair because he’s going through a down period in his life and uses the magic of theater to escape.”

Since the story takes place in the 1920s, the characters dress accordingly. The young women will wear flapper dresses with feathers and beads and will have short, bobbed hairdos with headbands. And the young men will be dressed to the nines in tuxedos and tails because the action takes place during a couple’s wedding day.

“At the end of the show, audiences will appreciate that, somehow, love will find a way,” said Stowers. “It reminds people that, even in the darkest times, there is a light somewhere.”

The couple getting married are Janet and Robert, and new Fairfax High grad Sammy Hayes portrays Janet. “She’s the ingenue, leading lady – a famous actress grappling between her love of the stage and her love for Robert,” said Hayes. “In the show they’re performing, she’s giving up her career to marry him. She’s confident, flirty and intelligent. And she’s always been independent, her own person and a successful performer.”

Hayes loves her role because “the show is super dramatic and over the top, akin to typical shows of that time, so all of Janet’s movements, emotions and songs are really heightened and exaggerated. And it’s fun to play someone so far away from reality and a character with such a large arc across the show, while she tries to figure out who she is and what she wants.”

Hayes also sings “Show Off,” which is her favorite song because “Janet gets to do a bunch of silly things, like spinning plates and dancing, while trying to show off her talents to the press.” She said the show’s entertaining for all ages, with humor for everyone and lots of big production numbers with everyone onstage. And, she added, “People will enjoy seeing the dances and colorful costumes.”

Jonah Uffelman, a new Madison High grad, plays Robert. “He’s a classic leading man from the Roaring Twenties,” said Uffelman. “Like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, he’s a dancer who acts – although badly – on the side. He’s outgoing, cheesy, melodramatic, campy and over the top in the show. The audience only gets to see the actors’ onstage personas.”

“I love playing him,” said Uffelman. “It’s the first time I’ve tap-danced in a show since eighth grade, and it’s one of my favorite things to do. I like how utterly dramatic and ridiculous Robert is in his songs and lines. He’s a total parody of twenties’ film stars.”

He especially likes the song, “Accident Waiting to Happen,” a duet sung by Janet and Robert. In it, said Uffelman, “I roller skate blindfolded across the stage while singing. The title is also a double entendre because Robert says that, since he’s in love, he’s completely uninhibited and fearless.”

Calling “The Drowsy Chaperone” a musical within a comedy, Uffelman said it’s “wonderful because, while thinking how absurd this show is, people will enjoy it because the actors know it’s absurd – which is the whole point of the show. And overall, it’s a great summer show because it’s light, fun and appropriate for everyone.”

Portraying the drowsy chaperone – who’s the man in the chair’s favorite character – is new Langley High grad Scarlett Spano. “Her name is Beatrice Stockwell, and she’s an established Broadway diva who loves having her moment on the stage and demanding attention whenever she appears,” said Spano. “I love her character because she shines right through ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’”

“So many times throughout the show, she defies the story’s plot to savor her time in the spotlight, even if it doesn’t make sense to the action,” continued Spano. “She’s confident and demanding, knows what she wants and goes after it. She’s made her mark in the world and won’t give it up, or move over, for anyone new who comes along, like Janet.”

However, Stockwell’s character in the musical is chaperoning Janet’s and Robert’s wedding, making sure things go smoothly. “She’s also Janet’s best friend and is very nurturing,” said Spano. “But Beatrice doesn’t want to do what’s expected and let Janet have the spotlight.”

Spano’s favorite song is “I Am Aldolpho,” sung by student Aquilles Ailus in the role of Stockwell’s unintended love interest. “It’s so goofy, has a lot of plays on words, and takes all the stereotypes about theater – and people’s assumptions about the arts – and exaggerates them to the max,” said Spano. “He’s trying to stop the wedding and mistakes Beatrice for the bride, so it’s really funny.”

She said audiences will love this show because “there’s a character for everyone to root for, and they’ll really like the set. Since the story takes place in a New York City apartment, the characters enter through the fridge. And even though it’s set in a peculiar place, the whole story comes to life in it.”

New Woodson High grad Jonah Hilbert plays the man in the chair. “He’s a divorced, middle-aged man living alone in his apartment,” said Hilbert. “On this day, he’s kind of sad, so he plays the record from his favorite musical, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ watching it before his eyes. 

“He also explains the show to the audience and gives them background about the actors. He does it with a dry sense of humor and sometimes sings along with the songs. Throughout the show, you learn about his own failed marriage, his views on the world and his personality. I love playing him because, when they’re doing the big musical numbers, I get to watch from the best seat in the house – the chair onstage.”

Hilbert especially likes the song, “Toledo Surprise,” a big ensemble number that’s the act one finale. “Everyone’s involved, and each person gets their moment to shine,” he said. As for the show, Hilbert said audiences will be “blown away by the talent of the area students who’ve come together to put on this production in a very short amount of time. And overall, it’s about the healing power of art, even if imperfect.”

Two of the ensemble members are Sienna Nguyen and Meghan Bernet, rising sophomores at Centreville and Chantilly high schools, respectively. “Toledo Surprise” is also Bernet’s favorite number because “there’s lots of Golden Age dances in it, such as the Charleston.”

She’s delighted to be part of this show because “it keeps me busy during the summer and I get to hang out with my theater friends that I don’t usually see because they go to other schools. And the stage manager, Sierra Lockrem, was my theater teacher at Franklin Middle School.”

Nguyen likes the opening number, “Fancy Dress,” best because it sets the scene for the story. “All the members of the cast are in it, and it’s in-your-face, loud and poppy,” she added. And she, too, is thrilled to be in this show.

“It’s fun because you meet people you wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, because they’re from schools all around here,” said Nguyen. “And you get to make lasting friendships with people who share the same interests with you.”