The Drowsy Chaperone
The producers of “The Drowsy Chaperone” have their cake and eat it too. As do the cast, the orchestra and the audience. While making fun of all the obvious foibles of the musical genre, “The Drowsy Chaperone” delivers a musical that is clever, self-referential and enjoyable.
A dweebish man, alone in his modern day apartment, begins the evening by bemoaning the tactic of certain productions to break the fourth wall, by doing just that. Jonathan Crombie plays the nebbish narrator, stopping and starting and explaining the ostensible 1928 musical that unfolds in his apartment.
His drab apartment is transformed into a colorful wedding spoof as he sets his turntable spinning with the cast recording album he received as a kid.
The story follows the classic misadventures of young lovers mistaking their feelings, with harmless thugs, a producer, his dumb blonde paramour and a few supporting castmembers for good measure. The groom, well-played by Mark Ledbetter, is set to marry Janet Van De Graaff (Andrea Chamberlain in a robust performance). Janet will apparently give up all the attention to which she has become accustomed as a stage star. The titular role is played by Nancy Opel, in a fine dual-edged manner.
The laughs come regularly, especially in “Show Off,” the evening’s third number. Janet is explaining how she will certainly give up the public’s adoration to marry her beau, all the while relishing in it. Chamberlain’s timing is impeccable, and the cast is well-choreographed. The de rigeur tap dancing number is handled by Ledbetter and Richard Vida, playing his best man. Both men acquit themselves admirably.
Brothers Paul and Peter Riopelle play the two gangsters cum bakers, a credible homage to the bumbling gangsters in Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate.” Although the latter pair invariably steal that show with “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” the gangsters in “Drowsy Chaperone” are a bit less successful.
Nonetheless, the clever lyrics and music from Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison carry the evening in fine form. Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography is tight and effortless.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” returns to the Ahmanson after garnering several well-deserved Tony awards. You don’t have to love musicals to enjoy this one.
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