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A Charming Disaster of a Musical: “The Chokey: Danny DeVito’s Witch Child”

As darkness fell on Astra Hall, the soothing words of Danny DeVito calmed the audience with his theatre safety announcement. What would follow was a night of song, dance, chaos, disaster and an all-round glorious mess of a musical. 

If you’ve ever been involved in a musical, you know how much work goes into each well-choreographed moment on stage. UCD’s Dramsoc has pulled a surprisingly cohesive musical out of their asses in just 24hours. Yes, that’s right, 24 hours. On Wednesday January 29th, the cast of Dramsoc’s “The Chokey: Danny DeVito’s Witch Child,” began rehearsals for what would be their most sleep-deprived and dramatic production yet (sponsored by lots of coffee). They began rehearsals at 7pm and managed to cram together an entire musical by 7pm the next day. Madness. 

The Chokey, which was suspiciously similar to the popular musical and 1996 film ‘Matilda’, began to a stumbling start. The orchestra, who also had very little time to prepare, disjointedly started into their first number, soon finding their feet. Members of the ensemble hid under a table on stage, only to pop up and begin singing along with infectious enthusiasm. What strikes you first is how coordinated the cast actually are. My expectations were fairly low going in, anticipating a right flop that would be hilarious to watch. Even though the mess-ups were by far the best part of the Chokey, I was pleasantly surprised by the talent presented on stage, considering their 24-hour window. 

The casting was on point. Highlights include Donagh Ruane as Miss Trunchbull, Orlagh McDonald as Mrs. Wormwood, Ryan Haran as Rudolpho and Mr. Wormwood credited as Ultan James Fabio H Stanley. Honourable mention to Sadhbh Geoghegan’s Matilda who brought a convincing innocence and child-like glow to the character. 

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Dramsoc’s Auditor Donagh Ruane stole every scene he was in. His portrayal of the mean Miss Trunchbull with his over-the-top posh accent brought a level of hilariousness to the Chokey that the audience lapped up. Props to the costume folks for Trunchbull’s outfit too (the fake boobs were on point).

The audience were no doubt shocked when Mr. Wormood tore up one of Matilda’s ‘books’ (actually a copy of the latest College Tribune!). Scandalous indeed. 

The Chokey is a near perfect mess of a musical, although it loses out a little with its gags. There was definitely a cliquey feel to some of the jokes. With members of the cast and crew in the front row and side stage sometimes being the only ones to laugh at the jokes. But inside jokes aside, Dramsoc’s the Chokey can be commended for its ability to both impress and crack up audience members. 

In spite of its ludicrously small budget, its tiny production window and its many, many missed stage cues, Dramsoc has managed to present us with a show both laughable and impressive. The Chokey is a charming disaster of a musical, and an annual Dramsoc tradition that should be continued for years to come.

 

Conor Capplis – Editor

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