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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Wide Awake staging of The Drowsy Chaperone Captivates at Seattle Musical Theatre

Also see David's reviews of The Brothers Size and Vanities

The Drowsy Chaperone
Danny Kam and Taylor Niemeyer
Seattle Musical Theatre follows up on their considerably well realized Chicago with an even more impressive staging of The Drowsy Chaperone directed by Brandon Ivie, who rose to the top ranks of Seattle's younger set of directors (and set off for the glories of New York City immediately after this show opened). The Canadian born musical won Tonys for Best Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and Best Score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison during its Broadway run, and is a delicious tongue-in-cheek spoof of '20s and '30s musical comedies, and Ivie's production more than does it proud.

The central character in The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical comedy buff referred to only as "Man in Chair," who lives in a New York apartment loaded with musical theatre memorabilia. From amidst his extensive record collection, he pulls a 2-record set of one of his favorite old musicals and nearly as soon as needle hits vinyl, The Drowsy Chaperone as performed by its original cast come to life in his living room. Not an affectionate cliché is overlooked as the tale of the on-again off-again nuptials for Broadway star Janet Van De Graaff and her beau Robert Martin unfolds, complete with a flamboyant Spaniard named Aldolpho, two comic gangsters, a Broadway producer and his floozy wannabe actress girlfriend, a doddering old grand dame, and Janet's "drowsy" (as in always half snockered) chaperone. Man in the Chair intersperses tantalizingly trivial showbiz tales about the show's cast while the story unravels, and there are hilarious bits involving the record getting stuck, and the second record being misplaced in favor of an altogether different cast album which starts to come to life itself. On the perfectly realized set by Shaun Albrechtson, Ivie turns loose a cast that gets the show's conceit, and plays it affectionately for all its worth.

A late and invaluable cast addition, Jon Lutyens as Man in the Chair is a total delight as the ultimate musical theatre maven, and makes the character as adorable as he is showbiz savvy. Young Taylor Niemeyer is fetching and confident as Janet, and delivers a knockout version of her big song "Show Off." Bo Mellinger complements her well as groom to be Robert Martin, and proves no slouch on roller skates while crooning "Accident Waiting To Happen." Bradetta Vines is a droll Drowsy Chaperone, and sings "As We Stumble Along" to a fare-thee-well, while Danny Kam is a comic standout as Aldolpho. Ada McAllister seems almost too comfortable in the dithery shoes of Mrs. Tottendale, while Buddy Mahoney seems to have stepped out of a thirties movie as her long-suffering manservant dubbed Underling. Jesse Parce and Jeff Orton are humorously in sync as the goofy gangsters who pose as cooks (and lead the big "Toledo Surprise" number with high energy), Caitlin Frances and Doug Knoop are an agreeable pair as chorine Kitty and producer Feldzieg, Vince Wingerter shows off his song and dance skills as the groom's best man George and, in a sassy cameo, Shermona Mitchell shows off her big voice as Trix the aviatrix.

Choreographer Troy Wageman earns kudos for making a cast with mixed levels of dance skill seem as one in the big numbers, and makes the show's true terpsichoreans twinkle. Musical director Paul Linnes' work with his cast is exemplary, though a few sour notes emitted from the show band during purely orchestral moments. Costumer DodiRose Zooropa's costumes are a kitschy eyeful.

The Drowsy Chaperone is, though best enjoyed by die hard musical comedy buffs, accessible to a more general crowd. While wishing director Ivie well, I am surely not alone in wishing that he venture away from the Great White Way now and then to share his talents with hometown audiences.

The Drowsy Chaperone plays at Seattle Musical Theatre through March 5th. For tickets or information, contact the SMT box office at 206-363-2809 or visit them online at www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org.


Photo: Danielle Barnum

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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