Skip to main content

Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD makes his return to the director’s chair for the Philadelphia premiere of 'The Drowsy Chaperone'

Tony Award-winning writer, actor, and comedian Bob Martin to speak at Nov. 15 at Villanova


VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova University President (and Barrymore Award-winning director) the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD returns to Villanova Theatre with the Philadelphia premiere of The Drowsy Chaperone, on stage November 6 – December 2, 2012. The darling of the 2006 Tony Awards, this hilarious show-within-a-show begins when a die-hard musical theatre fan puts on his favorite record – the cast album of the (fictional) 1920s musical The Drowsy Chaperone.  From the scratchy crackle of his phonograph, a madcap musical magically bursts to life, transforming his humble apartment into a dazzling world of song, dance, and comic ingenuity.  

The tongue-in-cheek musical comedy promises to delight audiences with the screwball saga of a pampered Broadway starlet who thinks she's ready to give up show business for marriage; her producer who sets out to sabotage the ceremony, her saucy (and sauced) chaperone, the handsome, nervous groom, a Latin lover, and a pair of bumbling pastry chefs with ties to the mob. As nutty as Noises Off with the intoxicating charm of Anything Goes, The Drowsy Chaperone is a hilarious love letter to the theatre. 

“In my final year as chair of the Theatre Department, I brought a group of my students to see the original Broadway production, and the show won me over almost instantly,” said Donohue. “It’s an homage to the melodic, slapstick-silly musicals of the 1920s, adorned with just enough postmodern footnotes to keep it fresh.”

Donohue returns to the director’s chair for the first time since taking office of the President at Villanova University in 2006.  Donohue is no stranger to the stage, however, having chaired the Theatre Department from 1992 to 2006.  He has received six Barrymore nominations for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Urinetown, Parade, Children of Eden, Into the Woods, Evita, and Chicago (which received nine nominations and three Barrymore Awards, including Outstanding Direction of a Musical). His other directing credits at Villanova include City of Angels, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, West Side Story, Candide, and Once on This Island. As an actor, Donohue has appeared with Villanova Theatre in Twelfth Night, Don Juan, The Trojan Women, and The Passion of Christ.

According to Theatre Department Chair, Rev. David Cregan, “We are beyond thrilled to be working with Father Peter again, particularly on a musical as sure to please as this.”  With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, The Drowsy Chaperone has been hailed as “clever, gleeful and intelligent” by audiences and critics alike (The New Yorker). 

Tony-award winning writer, actor and comedian Bob Martin will speak immediately following the November 15th performance of the musical.  Martin starred in the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone as the "Man in Chair." He also collaborated with Don McKellar on the book. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Man in Chair, and shared the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical with Don McKellar.

Villanova Theatre brings this rollicking musical world to life with the support of an award-winning creative team: Valerie Joyce (Assistant Director), Peter A. Hilliard (Music Director), Kevin Dietzler (Choreographer), John Raley (Scenic Design), Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Design), Jerold Forsyth (Lighting Design), John Stovicek (Sound Design).

Donohue directs a cast of experienced and energetic young actors including acting scholars Ahren Potratz (Man in the Chair), Jen Jaynes (The Drowsy Chaperone), Christine Petrini (Janet Van de Graff), and Peter Danzig (Robert Martin); graduate students Lauren Fanslau (Mrs. Tottendale), Phillip Vonada (Feldzieg), Seth Schmitt-Hall (Adolpho), Courtney Boches (Trix the Aviatrix), Emily Poworoznek and Steve Underwood (Ensemble).  They are joined by outside actors Mitchell Bloom (Underling), Kevin Dietzler (George), and Justin Damm (Gangster #1) as well as undergraduate students Jake Steinberg (Gangster #2), Ellen Knapp (Kitty), Dylan DeGaetano and Karen McConarty (Ensemble).

The Drowsy Chaperone takes the stage at Villanova Theatre from November 6 - December 2, 2012.  There are no performances during the week of Thanksgiving. Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Ave.). Performances will be held Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, M.A. in Theatre alumni, and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12 -5 p.m.) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at

About the director: The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., became the 32nd president of Villanova University on June 1, 2006. As president, Father Donohue has worked together with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents to strengthen the Villanova community and renew its commitment to the institution’s Catholic, Augustinian, and educational mission.  Born in Bronx, N.Y., and raised in Royal Oak, Mich., Father Donohue earned a B.A., with a concentration in theatre and communication arts, from Villanova University in 1975 and was ordained an Augustinian priest in 1979. He holds an M.A. in theatre from the Catholic University of America, a M. Div. from the Washington Theological Union, and a Ph.D. in theatre from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While pursuing his doctorate, Father Donohue taught theatre at the University of Illinois, where he received honors for outstanding teaching. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society.  Father Donohue is a tenured associate professor at Villanova who served as chair of the University’s department of theatre from 1992 to 2006. He annually directed musical theatre productions on campus, earning six Barrymore Award nominations and one Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical from the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

About the show:

"Downright Hilarious” – Talkin’ Broadway

“Delightful, sparkling entertainment! You’ll be over the moon! We haven’t seen anything quite this original in a long time.” –Associated Press

“You’re unlikely to have as funny an evening of theater this season as you will at this hilarious, side-splitting show.” –WNBC-TV

In 1998, Canadian writer and comedian Bob Martin became engaged to Janet Van De Graff. Martin’s friends -Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar, and Greg Morrison- wanted to throw him a unique stag party, and for entertainment, wrote him a musical spoof entitled The Drowsy Chaperone. Surrounded by friends at The Rivoli, a Toronto nightclub (plus strangers invited by a newspaper ad), Martin and Van de Graff first endured a “roast” and were then surprised with the performance of the musical spoof. It lasted about 35 minutes, and was fully costumed and packed with songs spanning many musical eras and styles. Martin loved the show, and he and the originators thought they might have something more than an engagement gift on their hands. The four became the collective creative force behind the show, with Martin and McKellar writing the book, Morrison and Lambert the music and lyrics. They searched for a way to explore a period musical spoof through a modern perspective. The Drowsy Chaperone opened on Broadway on May 1, 2006, and ran for 679 performances, including 32 preview nights. It was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and won five, including Best Book and Best Score. The cast included a variety of well-known performers, such as Sutton Foster (Janet Van de Graff), Georgia Engel (Mrs. Tottendale), and Beth Leavel (Drowsy Chaperone), who won a Tony for her performance.  The production also earned fourteen Drama Desk nominations and won seven, including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Book, Music, and Lyrics.

About Speaker's Night: Bob Martin has been working as an actor and writer in Canadian theatre, film and television for 3 decades. He has had a long association with the Toronto Second City, where he co-wrote and performed in four Second City revues, directed three, and had a stint as Artistic Director. He is a co-creator of The Drowsy Chaperone, and has performed in many of its incarnations: Toronto Fringe, Theatre Passe Muraille (Toronto), Winter Garden (Toronto), Ahmanson Theatre (Los Angeles), MarquisTheatre (Broadway), Novello (London). Bob won a number of awards for his work on Drowsy including an LA Drama Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Theatre World Award, and a Tony Award. He is also co-creator of  Slings &Arrows, a critically acclaimed dramatic series about life at a large not for profit theatre company, which was recently named one of the ten best TV shows of the decade by a number of publications including New York Magazine.Recent TV projects include Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays (Rhombus Media/CBC) and Sensitive Skin (in dev -Rhombus Media/Shaw). Recent theatre projects include Elf (Broadway), Minsky’s (Ahmanson), Wynn Follies (Las Vegas) and GottaDance (in dev - Dreamworks). 

About Villanova Theatre: Villanova Theatre is a community of artist-scholars committed to transforming hearts and minds through the visionary production of classical, modern, and contemporary dramatic literature. Our work is fueled by the imaginative striving common to Villanova’ s accomplished faculty, versatile staff, and energetic graduate students. Together, we are devoted to creating a vibrant theatre enriched by and overflowing with the ideas explored in our classrooms. In all of our endeavors, we aim to share the dynamic experience of collaborative learning with our audiences in order to engage the intellect and stir the soul.  As a facet of Villanova University, Villanova Theatre serves the campus community as well as thousands of theatre-goers from the Main Line and the Greater Philadelphia area. 

The Villanova University Theatre Department came into being in 1958 under the leadership of Dr. Dick Duprey.  Today, Villanova’s Department of Theatre offers both a Master of Arts degree and a Graduate Certificate in Practical Theatre.  Students enrolled in the theatre program undergo a course of study that combines both scholarly and practical approaches to theatre.  Guided by award-winning faculty and staff who are actively involved in the region’s professional theatre industry, students gain knowledge and experience through hands-on production work and in-depth academic study in the areas of dramaturgy, script analysis, dramatic literature, playwriting, acting, and directing.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.