Thursday, April 23, 2020

Musical of the Month: The Drowsy Chaperone: The Cast Recording

These days, I bet a lot of us are feeling like The Man in Chair from The Drowsy Chaperone. I know I do. Sitting in my chair, listening to cast recordings and imagining the show coming to life before me. Well, if you are looking for something fun, vivid and 100% Broadway musical comedy, look no further than the cast recording for this little gem.

The Tony-winning score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison is delightful from start to finish, with a sweetly old-fashioned (think 1920s, 1930s) pastiche and a droll, witty modern sensibility. The whole thing is kept together by a good deal of narration from Bob Martin's Tony-winning book.)

The recording starts off with a zippy overture, followed by one hell of an "introduce the characters" number (just as fun as a similar song in Great Comet). What's fun about that number is picking out the voices of some of today's biggest names - Sutton Foster, Danny Burstein and a glorious turn by Beth Leavel ("I'm drowsy..."). Later numbers include a jazzy tap number (complete with taps, naturally), and the delicious (and devilish) "(I Don't Want to) Show Off" lead by the perfection that is Sutton Foster. That last note! And then there's the encore... that last note, again! I will admit to getting a touch verklempt hearing the sweet, late Georgia Engle as Mrs. Tottendale warbling "Love Is Always Lovely in the End."

But, and this is a true rarity, there are two numbers that are just as riotous on the recording as they were live in the theater: "I Am Adolfo" featuring a never funnier Danny Burstein, chewing the scenery as if it were a banquet, and the truly incomparable Beth Leavel, who also revels in the stand out number, "As We Stumble Along." There really are no weak moments here. And much credit for how wonderful this recording is goes to the orchestrations by Larry Blank and the arrangements by Glen Kelly.

The CD is worth purchasing (as is the vinyl) for the included booklet, which features full lyrics, lots of production photos and a great essay from producer Kevin McCollum. Best of all is the faux period ephemera that is scattered about the booklet.

This unfortunate time may just have an antidote for the missing Broadway blues. Give this gem a listen or two. You'll be humming the tunes long after the recording ends.

Grade: A+


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