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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Drowsy Chaperone

It's very cold and sleet is falling from the sky but you don't care because you're going to a Broadway show! --Man in chair-
The Drowsy Chaperone
Angela Pupello, Sutton Foster, Patrick Wetzel (Photo:Craig Schwartz)
It's like your favorite person whose emotions and desires bubble up like bootleg champagne, who wears flamboyant clothes, loves attention, is indescribably silly and fun to be with, and makes you forget the sleet is falling. Man in Chair (Bob Martin) who opens the show commenting from his shabby flat on his love of 1920s musicals that transport him to a colorful cheery world that never was in any era takes The Drowsy Chaperone to another dimension. The action freezes as he says "This scene is ridiculous!" or "I hate this scene!" Sometimes he joins in a dance and tells you things you'd rather not know about what happened to the actors who play these characters, adding yet a third dimension to this one-dimensional world.

He's a fan from pre-CD days with his collection of "records." When Act II starts out in a gilt-and-scarlet Chinese temple he cries" It's the wrong show " and the actors in their mandarin costumes slink disconsolately off stage to get ready for 1928 again. We're disconsolate too, since the score started off so promisingly with "What is it about the Asians that fascinates Caucasians?"

Man in Chair is the heart of the show. He stands in for the audience and drolly personifies the guilty pleasure we take in escaping to the roles of gorgeous greedy prancing dancing people we'd love to be -- but just sometimes. If only we could dance like Sutton Foster who plays Broadway star Janet. She sings in a sweet spicy vibrato and does a dazzling dance that ends in a split while changing from one gorgeous costume into another, saving the most breath-taking best for the encore.

Foster, who won the Tony for Thoroughly Modern Millie, wears each 1920s confection as if it were her birthday suit. Her solo, "Show Off," is the show's most unforgettable song, not only for her performanc, but for its content, especially to a Hollywood audience. Flashbulbs pop as the star sits by the pool, claiming she doesn't want any more attention because she's getting married today. That is, she was until best man George (Eddie Korbich) persuades groom Robert (Troy Britton Johnson) to go roller-skating blindfolded (well, wouldn't you?) and he encounters Janet who decides to test him by pretending to be Mimi. Of course, he flunks. That's the plot. It's catnip to her producer Feldzieg (Lenny Wolpe), who is being stalked by two gangsters (Jason and Garth Kravits, clones of the "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" duo from Kiss Me, Kate), to insure Janet stays in the show.

The Drowsy Chapeone steals shamelessly and joyfully from everybody. After the love duet in which "Monkey" is the key word (Man in Chair tells us to ignore the lyrics), there's a grand dance number which is a collage of everything from"American in Paris" to "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" to the dream ballet in Oklahoma.

But The Drowsy Chaperone isn't a parody. It's a homage, with all the stock characters created in 1920s musicals who found their way into early movies.

Georgia Engel is delicately ditzy as Mrs. Tottendale. Think Spring Byington playing Altzheimer's with charm. There's also Feldzieg's arm candy Kitty (Jennifer Smith) with her Miss Adelaide voice and her dumb-like-a-fox marriage trap and Adolpho (Danny Burstein), is the Latin lover no show can do without; and, of course, there's the Drowsy Chaperone herself (Beth Leavel), an elegant question mark in costumes to die for. Her response to every unwelcome inquiry -- "I don't understand questions" --stops them cold every time. Kecia Lewis-Evans, of the rich voice and dazzling smile, plays an aviatrix named Trix (what else?) who descends in her airplane, another homage (let's believe it's to George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance not Miss Saigon despite a repairman who raves about that show).

Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw uses such wonderful sight gags as having Mrs. Tottendale's underling (Edward Hibbert) prance on and off stage carrying a tray of cocktails. Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison composed the music with lyrics that could have come from a "record." Gregg Barnes can furnish my closet with his fabulous costumes any time. David Gallo makes one set into many places through his clever designs which are elegant or homey as the case may be. The book is by Don McKellar and Bob Martin (Man in Chair) who finally gets his wish as he joins the cast on the wings of Trix's airplane and ascends into the stratosphere. We waved him off with a standing ovation.

Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar Director: Casey Nicholaw
Cast: Bob Martin (Man in Chair), Georgia Engel (Mrs. Tottendale), Edward Hibbert (Underling), Troy Britton Johnson (Robert), Eddie Korbich (George), Lenny Wolpe (Feldzieg), Jennifer Smith (Kitty), Jason Kravits (Gangster #1), Garth Kravits (Gangster #2), Danny Burstein (Aldolpho), Sutton Foster (Janet), Beth Leavel (Drowsy Chaperone), Kecia Lewis-Evans (Trix), Angela Pupello (Servant, Reporter, Dream Janet), Patrick Wetzel (Servant, Reporter, Dream Robert), Linda Griffin (Servant, Reporter), Joey Sorge (Servant, Reporter, Super)
Set Design: David Gallo
Lighting Design: Ken Billington and Brian Monahan
Costume Design: Gregg Barnes
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Make-Up Design: Justen M. Brosnan
Orchestra Conductor: Phil Reno
Running Time: One hour 45 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: November 10-December 24, 2005
Where:.Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, Ph: (213) 680-4017.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on November 18. Musical Numbers
  • Fancy Dress/ Company
  • Cold Feets/ Robert, George
  • Best Man For The Job/ George
  • Show Off/ Janet, Ensemble
  • As We Stumble Along/ Drowsy
  • I Am Aldolpho/ Aldolpho, Drowsy
  • Accident Waiting To Happen/ Robert, Janet
  • Toledo Surprise/ Company
  • Message From A Nightingale, Kitty, Gangsters, Aldolpho, Drowsy
  • Bride's Lament/ Janet
  • Groom's Reverie/ Robert, Company
  • I Remember Love/ Mrs. Tottendale, Underling
  • I Do, I Do In The Sky/ Trix And Company
  • As We Stumble Along Reprise/ Company
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©2005  Elyse Sommer.