Spring is imminent, and we can only hope that it helps liven things up. In the meantime, we do have The Drowsy Chaperone, billed as a musical inside a comedy, to brighten up the season, taking us back to a simpler time.
The critically acclaimed musical – it received five Tony Awards, more than any other musical of 2006 – opens March 28 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.
The show tells the story of a modern day musical theatre addict known simply as “Man in Chair.” To chase his blues away, he drops the needle on his favourite LP – the 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone.
From the crackle of his hi-fi, the musical magically bursts to life on-stage, telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married, her producer who sets out to sabotage the nuptials, her chaperone, the debonair groom, the dizzy chorus girl, the Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs.
It’s all about fun for fun’s sake, a world of colourful sets and upbeat music, evoking all the glitter of the jazz age.
“The Drowsy Chaperone is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to old-fashioned musical comedy – if you love song and dance musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and Anything Goes, you will love this show,” says Drayton Entertainment’s artistic director, Alex Mustakas. “It’s ferociously funny, fast paced, and jam-packed with show-stopping dance numbers, upbeat songs and over-the-top characters.”
Outside of Man in Chair’s reminiscences, there are his comedic and sometimes acerbic reflections on the state of the modern theatre. His drab apartment and not-always-sunny outlook are in direct contrast to the musical. But it’s his role that has evolved as the lynchpin of the story.
It’s the ironic touches that make The Drowsy Chaperone a modern take on classic comedy.
The cast includes Stratford alumnus Mike Nadajewski as the narrator known only as Man in Chair. Adding a new twist to the show-within-a-show scenario, Nadajewski’s quirky Man in Chair provides a hilarious running commentary, including back-stories about the fictitious performers and quips about the ridiculous plot lines as he giddily applauds the production numbers from his front row seat right on stage.
The Drowsy Chaperone introduces us to celebrity Janet Van De Graaf, who vows to leave the stage to settle down with her oil tycoon beau Robert Martin. This is to the chagrin of her wily producer Mr. Feldzieg, who will stop at nothing to keep his star performer in the limelight as the featured attraction in his Feldzieg’s Follies.
Jayme Armstrong, who has performed in numerous Drayton Entertainment productions including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ in the Rain and Anything Goes, takes on the role of conflicted starlet Janet Van De Graaf. Stratford and Charlottetown festivals alumnus Kyle Golemba is her lovesick mogul fiancé, Robert. Cliff Saunders, seen in The 39 Steps last season, is the devious producer Mr. Feldzieg.
A host of other comical characters become embroiled in the plot to prevent Janet’s marriage – veteran actress Gabrielle Jones is Janet’s inebriated Chaperone, who is supposed to keep her away from Robert until the wedding despite being distracted by her own hijinks. Andrew Scanlon, who appeared in the U.S. tour and Toronto productions of Kinky Boots, is self-proclaimed famed Latin lover Aldolpho, who is out for seduction. Shaw Festival alumna Glynis Ranney is the daffy wedding hostess, Mrs. Tottendale, with funny man Keith Savage as her loyal butler, Underling.
Tim Porter, who has become a staple in the Drayton Entertainment pantos, is Robert’s jovial best man, George; Jennifer Thiessen, who appeared in Beauty and the Beast, is ditzy flapper Kitty, who hopes to take Janet’s place in the Follies; Gregory Pember and Aaron Walpole, who both appeared in Rock of Ages, are two goofy gangsters disguised as pastry chefs determined to stall the nuptials.
With music and lyrics by Tony Award winners Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Tony Award winners Bob Martin and Don McKellar, the story is Canadian in its roots.
Originally created as a 40-minute musical for Martin’s stag and doe back in 1998 by friends who were writers, performers and comedians in Toronto, the show went through several iterations before opening on Broadway and becoming a smash hit.
The Drayton Entertainment production of The Drowsy Chaperone is on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse from March 28 to April 15. Tickets are $46 ($27 for youth under 20 years of age), and can be purchased online at www.draytonentertainment.com, in person at the box office or by calling 519-747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).