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Theater Review: Swift Creek goes all out for its silly and memorable musical "The Drowsy Chaperone."

click to enlarge Nicole Oberleitner as the Drowsy Chaperone and Matt Shofner as Aldolpho are part of the ensemble in an over-the-top musical with some impressive performances.

Robyn O'Neill

Nicole Oberleitner as the Drowsy Chaperone and Matt Shofner as Aldolpho are part of the ensemble in an over-the-top musical with some impressive performances.

After five months of being shuttered for renovations, Swift Creek Mill Theatre has reopened, and it's undergone more improvements than Joan Rivers has facelifts.

Similarly, its first show this season — "The Drowsy Chaperone" — is filled to the brim with bells and whistles. Even before the show begins, it's evident from Tom Width's expertly constructed set that the Mill has set a high bar for this production.

The show's premise is this: Attempting to relax in his apartment one evening, an unnamed, anti-social theater fan plays the original cast recording of "The Drowsy Chaperone," a fictional 1928 musical comedy. While the man (Richard Koch) relates his thoughts on the musical, the show comes to life in his apartment.

The musical within the musical concerns Janet Van deGraff (Christie Jackson), a Broadway star retiring from the biz in order to marry a man she barely knows. The musical's exact plot is absurd and unimportant, mainly serving as a setup for the show's increasingly ridiculous spectacles. And though the show's parts are greater than the whole, this production has a number of impressive performances.

First and foremost, there's Jackson, who walks away with the show in her big number "Show Off." While she cartwheels around the stage — singing, dancing, performing magic tricks — she's absolutely spellbinding.

Nicole Oberleitner is appropriately over the top as the Drowsy Chaperone, a grande dame of the theater who sings the vaguely inspirational number, "As We Stumble Along." As the Latin-lover stereotype Adolpho, Matt Shofner fittingly provides enough ham to put Smithfield out of business. The rest of the large cast does good work too, with local favorites such as Georgia Rogers Farmer and Joe Pabst adding to the zaniness.

The show's technical elements are also impressive, from Width's surprise-packed set to Joe Doran's fantastic lighting design. Maura Lynch Cravey's beautiful costumes fit each character and performer, and Paul Deiss' live orchestra doesn't miss a beat.

Though the show has its share of groaners, its concept and execution is higher brow than most, and such numbers as "Message from a Nightingale" — a hilarious take on "The King and I" — are flawless. In the end, the show may be just too silly for its own good, but that doesn't mean "The Drowsy Chaperone" is without its certain goofy charms. S

"The Drowsy Chaperone" plays through Dec. 21 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway. For ticket information call 748-5203 or visit swiftcreekmill.com.

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