‘THE DROWSY CHAPERONE’
Drowsy Chaperone as a musical within a musical sparkles
By MARY DAMIANO
Published: January 5, 2008
As sparkly as a sequined gown, as bubbly as champagne, The Drowsy Chaperone
is a valentine to a bygone era of musical theater — though it never misses an opportunity to poke fun at wacky theatrical conventions.
The opening is structured like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
; the audience meets the entire company right at the beginning and knows from the get-go that there will be a happy ending. The Drowsy Chaperone
is a show within a show, in which an avid theater fan, known only as Man in Chair (Jonathan Crombie) sits in his squalid, one-room apartment and plays the record album (yes, an actual vinyl LP) from a forgotten 1928 musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
As the musical comes to life in his apartment, he interjects trivia about the stars who played the parts, comments on the plot and songs, and reveals much about himself by discussing what the musical means to him.
The faux show that has besotted the Man in Chair has one of those screwball plots that require a huge suspension of disbelief. There’s a ditzy society matron, her loyal butler, a pair of gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a dizzy chorus girl, an insecure producer, a sleazy Latin lover, a tipsy chaperone, an aviatrix, a beautiful bride and a dashing groom. They all converge on a countryntry estate on the wedding day of said bride and groom, and as you can imagine, complications ensue.
The Drowsy Chaperone
closed on Broadway just a few days ago, after nearly 700 performances and several Tony awards. This touring company, which hit the road in September, is polished and exuberant, and up to the broad comedy the show requires.
As Man in Chair, Crombie delivers a poignant and funny performance, though he seems miscast. Crombie is a bit young to have been so beaten up by life that he’s become a recluse in his tiny flat, with his collection of Broadway cast albums as his only solace.
Georgia Engel reprises her role as Mrs. Tottendale, the society matron she created on Broadway. Best known for her TV roles as Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and as Pat McDougal on TEverybody Loves Raymond, Engel plays her signature sweet but clueless character, and she’s still a delight to watch, especially during a very funny spit-take scene.
There are lots of show-stopping moments, including Andrea Chamberlain’s big “Show Off”; number, Richard Vida and Mark Ledbetter’s exuberant tap dancing on “Cold Feets,” and the anthemic “As We Stumble Along.”
The glitzy costumes, whimsical set design and inventive staging meld with the cast’s performances to make The Drowsy Chaperone
a breezy ride.