Reviews

The Drowsy Chaperone

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Drowsy Chaperone, a spoof of Broadway musicals from the 1920’s, is an homage to the golden era of theatre when people longed for nothing more than to be magically transported to another world. Although little more than a parody of stock characters singing a pastiche of songs from the period that steels boldly from later day musicals as well, the evening is served with such tremendous style and wit that the loving tribute actually stops time. We are allowed for a brief hour and 40 minutes to chase all the blues away and escape into the madness of the musical theatre world.The evening begins with the audience sitting in a pitch black theatre for a few moments before we hear the voice of our host, simply referred to as Man in Chair, saying “Dear Lord please let it be good.” We are then taken into the cluttered New York City apartment of this die hard musical theatre fan, where he sits stage right in an overstuffed easy chair next to his record player. Yes record player, no CDs for him, he loves the static from the needle saying, “To me that’s the sound of a time machine starting up.”

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Drowsy Chaperone, a spoof of Broadway musicals from the 1920’s, is an homage to the golden era of theatre when people longed for nothing more than to be magically transported to another world. Although little more than a parody of stock characters singing a pastiche of songs from the period that steels boldly from later day musicals as well, the evening is served with such tremendous style and wit that the loving tribute actually stops time. We are allowed for a brief hour and 40 minutes to chase all the blues away and escape into the madness of the musical theatre world.The evening begins with the audience sitting in a pitch black theatre for a few moments before we hear the voice of our host, simply referred to as Man in Chair, saying “Dear Lord please let it be good.” We are then taken into the cluttered New York City apartment of this die hard musical theatre fan, where he sits stage right in an overstuffed easy chair next to his record player. Yes record player, no CDs for him, he loves the static from the needle saying, “To me that’s the sound of a time machine starting up.”

To cheer himself he decides to play the cast recording from one of his favorite ditzy shows, The Drowsy Chaperone. He tells us to ignore the lyrics as he ushers us back in time to the Morosco Theatre November 1928 by playing the record, and the madcap musical suddenly bursts to life right in his apartment. Our ecstatic guide shares his running commentary throughout the evening encouraging us to let loose for a zany ride down memory lane.
The show with its screwball characters singing and dancing is nothing more than silly fun that whimsically floats on air. The musical within the musical tells the tale of a pampered Broadway star Janet Van De Graff (Sutton Foster), who plans to give up show business to marry the dashing bachelor Robert Martin (Troy Britton Johnson). Her producer (Lenny Wolpe) attempts to sabotage the wedding by having the Latin lover Aldolpho (Danny Burstein) seduce her, but Aldolpho mistakes her chaperone (Beth Leavel) for the star instead. All sorts of crazy shenanigans arise involving the rest of the wacky characters that include a pair of lunatic gangsters posing as a vaudeville team (Jason and Garth Kravits), the wedding hostess Mrs. Tottendale (Georgia Engel), her man servant Underling (Edward Hibbert), the producer’s blonde bimbo girlfriend Kitty (Jennifer Smith) and several others.

The imaginative scenic design by David Gallo magically comes to life from out of nowhere. Set pieces float from the ceiling, emerge from walls, and characters make elaborate entrances right out of the refrigerator. There is even a trap door that allows for dramatic exits that descend through the floor.

Man in chair is a contrived gimmick, but as conceived by Bob Martin, who co-authored the show with Don Mckellar, he’s a charming delight that keeps the outstanding cast on their magical carpet ride and saves the evening from being just another parody with his refreshing comments, “This is ridiculous,” or “I hate that scene,” and reminding us; “Everything works out in musicals. In the real world nothing works out and the only people who burst into song are the hopelessly deranged.”

Indeed everything about this intoxicating cocktail as directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw is

Photo by Joan Marcus

spiked with sparkle and wit. The uniformly vivacious performances are often hilarious never failing to keep you smiling throughout. The engaging songs with their vibrant score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison give everyone a moment in the spotlight. The dynamic ensemble is having the time of their lives and their effervescent joy is contagious. The audience was absolutely delirious with laughter from start to finish.

gordin & christiano

The Drowsy Chaperone opened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets, on May 1, 2006. Tickets are available through Ticket master by calling 212-307-4100 or online at HYPERLINK "http://www.ticketmaster.com" www.ticketmaster.com or in person at the theatre box office.

Originally Published in Dan's Papers