Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: DECEMBER 17, 2010
If you love musicals, you’ll love this musical. “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a parody of every musical theater trope in the business – the structure, the type of songs, the stock characters; they’re all there.
But it takes the whole thing one meta-step further: there’s a zhlubby , whiney guy, a musical theater devotee who knows every line and nuance and historical factoid – we all know a theater queen like that, don’t we? – and he becomes our narrator and guide. Identified only as Man in Chair, he’s home alone in his grubby little apartment, feeling ‘blue.’
So what does he do when he’s down in the dumps? He takes out his old LPs – yes, actual vinyl albums – and plays his very favorite, a little-known 1928 musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
As he talks directly to us, explaining the plot and dishing the dirt on the actors, the characters magically step out of his refrigerator and start performing the show in his living room. The Chair-guy is in ecstasy as he plays us the scratchy record, mouthing the words and mimicking the action, which is as ridiculous as any early musical comedy – before Stephen Sondheim started writing shows about serial killers and presidential assassins.
The small but wildly ambitious Vista-based Broadway Theatre , which is mounting no fewer than six shows this holiday season – for adults and kids — has managed to snag the first local production rights to “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which won Tony Awards in 2006 for Best Book and Best Score of a musical.
They brought in L.A-based Ray Limon, who frequently directs and choreographs at the Welk Resort Theatre, and he collared a bevy of seasoned L.A. actors, with a local or two thrown in.
They’re putting on quite a show – with first-rate singing and a pretty cool band that includes trumpet and clarinet — and a snazzy array of Prohibition-era costumes. The sound was problematic on opening night, but the fast-paced mayhem was perfectly in place. The humor quotient wasn’t as high as it should be to make the show soar, but it’s likely that, along with the intentionally over-the-top performances, the comic antics will ramp up a notch this weekend.
The musical still maintains the wacky, spontaneous nature of its origins. It began as a 40-minute spoof, written for the bachelor party of the show’s ultimate co-creator, Bob Martin, and it’s rife with funny, insider lines about musical theater that will have theater junkies rolling in the aisles.
Music, romance, showbiz, nostalgia – for sheer, mindless, musical theater fun, and a fleet, intermissionless diversion from holiday shopping, eating, partying and family madness, “The Drowsy Chaperone” might be just what Santa wants in your stocking this season.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” runs through December 19 at the Avo Theatre in Vista .
©2010 PAT LAUNER