The Stage Door Theatre presents one of the most celebrated musicals of the 2006 Broadway season, The Drowsy Chaperone. The Drowsy Chaperone features music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, and book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. It debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1999 and had its first complete production at the Toronto Winter Garden Theatre in June of 2001. It ran in 2005 at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, where it received five Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. It opened on Broadway on May 1, 2006 at the Marquis Theatre and received five Tony Awards (with thirteen nominations), seven Drama Desk Awards (with fourteen nominations), four Outer Critic's Circle Awards, a Theatre World Award and a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
The Drowsy Chaperone is the story of a fussy and reclusive, middle-aged, modern-day musical-theatre addict known simply as Man in Chair (Dan Kelley). To chase the blues away, he likes to listen to familiar old musicals. On this particular occasion, he drops the needle on his favorite LP (yes LP, not CD!), the cast recording of the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. From the crackle of his hi-fi, the musical magically bursts to life on stage all around him. It tells the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet, Janet Van De Graaff (Laura Oldham), who wants to give up show business and marry her debonair suitor, Robert Martin (Jeffrey Funaro). To complicate matters, there is a dim-witted aspiring actress named Kitty (Sari Feldman) waiting to take her place and a producer named Feldzieg (Jonathan Van Dyke) determined to sabotage the nuptials. There are also two gangsters (Phil Gosselin and Andrew Ford) looking to ensure that the producer doesn't lose money on their investment and of course, her Drowsy Chaperone. The chaperone (Eileen Faxas) isn't naturally drowsy, but she is inclined to drinkdespite the existence of prohibitionand it seems that alcohol makes her terribly, terribly drowsy. Needless to say, she is rather sleepy throughout the entire show. Since it is her job to keep an eye on Janet, her drowsy nature allows mischief to occur undetected. She even encounters a bit of mischief of her own in the arms of an aging Latin lover named Aldolpho (Matt Ban).
One cannot help but compare productions, and having seen two national tours of the same show, this one shines for some extraordinarily good directing by Dan Kelley. The characters' choices, and how these characters represent old movie-musical stereotypes, as well as their acting beats are all very clean. The scenic design is right on the money, complete with a refrigerator and a Murphy bed that double as an entrance for the characters of the musical within the show. The costumes, especially for the men, are sensational in their attention to detail, use of color, and exaggerated period style. As Man in Chair, Dan Kelley shows an artful awareness of the audience that helps make the character's conversations with the audience seem impromptu. His interpretation of the role is more high strung than the nerdy, introverted way in which the character is usually playedbut it works quite well. Eileen Faxas is tops as the drunken diva, the Drowsy Chaperone. This is a great role for her to showcase her comedic ability. It is very important that the Drowsy Chaperone takes the stage in her given moments, such as on "As We Stumble Along", and Faxas really delivers.
Jeffrey Funaro plays the role of the groom Robert Martin exactly as is intended. Robert is supposed to be a somewhat plastic matinee idol, and it is refreshing to see someone actually get the role right. Playing Robert as plastic allows the role of his energetic best friend George (Matthew Alexander) to emerge with more strength. Matthew Alexander dances and sings the role of George with style, but is not given enough dance moments to really shine. A staged moment during the number "Cold Feets" (which he dances with Funaro) has Underling (Joshua Nicholson) walk on stage with glasses of water for the two gentlemen who should be in the midst of panting due to their dancing exertion. Unfortunately, the choreography is just not difficult for this to happen, and the number as a whole is underwhelming. Matt Ban plays Aldolpho with high camp. He has some hysterical moments in "I Am Aldolpho" because he goes for the comedy rather than beautiful singing. Laura Oldham is the perfect musical theatre ingenue as Janet Van De Graaff, and is at her best in the song "Show Off."
This delightful production of The Drowsy Chaperone at the Stage Door Theatre is a welcome and entertaining Summertime offering.
The Drowsy Chaperone will be appearing at The Stage Door Theatre through July 25, 2010. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoortheatre.com.
*Appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.