Thursday, April 2, 2020

Musical of the Month: The Drowsy Chaperone

Next up in our Musical of the Month series is the hysterical, whimsical parody musical from 2006, The Drowsy Chaperone. Finding more than a few similarities between myself and the lead male character, Man in Chair, I feel a special connection to this show. Oddly enough, I only saw it once, and neither of my theater "besties" saw it at all. (This is a frequent joke with the three of us.) Though it was neither the big award-winner, nor longest-running show from the 05-06 season, it was definitely my favorite new musical. Given the current state of things, it is nice to look back on such a sweet, funny jewel. I guess most of us now have a lot in common with Man in Chair...

Musical of the Month:
The Drowsy Chaperone
Background, Stats and Plot

Like another unlikely musical, Urinetown, the show, as we know it, got its start at a fringe festival. But before that its origins are surely unique. It all began as a risque sketch by friends (and collaborators) Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison (music and lyrics) and Don McKellar (book) written for the bachelor party celebrating the impending nuptials of Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff. Eventually, Martin came aboard, helped write the book (and creating his character, Man in Chair), and in 1998, it premiered at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The team worked on it for several years, and the show opened at a legit theater this time, also in Toronto. Fast forward to 2005, and the show, helmed by Casey Nicholaw, had a pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles. 

  • The show began the first of its 32 previews on April 3, 2006 at the Marquis Theatre, where it opened on May 1, 2006.
  • Chaperone was a 14 time Drama Desk Award nominee. It won 7, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score - Music and Lyrics.
  • The Tony Awards committee nominated the show for 13 awards, including Best Musical. It went on to win 5, including Best Book, Best Score, and a Featured Actress award for Beth Leavel.
  • Bob Martin was honored with a Theatre World Award for his efforts.
  • The Broadway production closed on December 30, 2007, following 674 performances.

The Plot
As is generally the case with shows of this type, the plot is hilariously complicated. But, in general terms, the show is what happens when the original social distancer, Man in Chair sits alone in his apartment listening to vintage original cast recordings. His favorite, he tells us, is The Drowsy Chaperone. Such is the intensity of his adoration, that the show comes to life before us in his one room studio. All of the roaring 20's stock characters are there, including an egotistical leading lady (a dazzling Sutton Foster), a self-absorbed Latin Lothario (a riotous Danny Burstein), a female aviatrix (a sassy Kecia Lewis-Evans), and the titular chaperone (a boozy delight, Beth Leavel). The darling of the evening was the late, great Georgia Engel, bringing her ditzy trademark voice and sweet charm to new, delightful heights.

NEXT WEEK: The Creative Team


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