Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Drowsy Chaperone (The SOB Review) - Marquis Theatre, New York, NY

The Drowsy Chaperone (The SOB Review) - Marquis Theatre, New York, NY

*** (out of ****)

It's official -- I've finally seen each of the Tony-nominated shows for Best Musical this past year, now that I've taken in The Drowsy Chaperone at Broadway's Marquis Theatre. I can honestly say that in my own humble estimation, this is the show that should have taken the top Tony honor (it lost out to Jersey Boys) last June.

By no means is this a perfect musical. While I appreciate the show-within-a-show premise that includes the retelling of a supposedly fabled, light-hearted 20s musical by virtue of our protagonist's cheriched cast recording and earnest narration, the plotline of the inner show was at times insipid and dialogue often groan-inducing. Bad puns abounded (OK, I know that many of my story headlines may be equally bad, but no one is paying me to write them!).

Thankfully, more often than not, our narrator "Man In Chair" -- deliciously played as the ultimate theatre queen by Bob Martin (pictured above), who also co-wrote the libretto with Don McKellar -- offers up disarming and downright hysterical comments suggesting many of the show's elements are labored or nonsensical. You can't help but think you've been played all along and that the joke is actually on you.

Beyond Martin's clever banter and delightful introduction to each character, his superb body language and expressions throughout The Drowsy Chaperone are intrinsic to the ultimate audience buy-in of the inner show. Additionally, much like "The Wizard Of Oz" evolving from its early black and white scenes to full color once the house hits Munchkinland, Man In Chair's dreary living room magically comes alive with the color and panache of a cheerful bygone musical comedy thanks to David Gallo's vibrant set design and Gregg Barnes' exceptional costume design.

There are some absolutely terrific numbers -- written by Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert -- including "Cold Feet" in which the inner show's groom-to-be Robert Martin (played with snarky charm by Troy Britton Johnson) and his best man George (Eddie Korbich) practically catch fire literally through their hot tap dancing steps. Robert's fiancé Janet Van De Graaff (a breakthrough performance by the adorable Andrea Chamberlain in the role normally played by Sutton Foster) melts our hearts with her irrestible "Show Off." And then there's Beth Leavel's exquisite, boozy chaperone, who triumphantly sings, "As We Stumble Along." But my personal favorite is when the entire cast goes full throttle in the rollicking "Toledo Surprise," climaxing with everyone getting stuck in a skip of Man In Chair's record -- until Man In Chair kicks the turntable to set the music back in motion.

When the tuner threatens to end on a bit of a down note with Man In Chair pouring out his heart to the audience, you can't help but empathize with him. But alas, so do the characters who he's excelled at bringing to life, thus ending the show on a truly soaring note.

But best of all, Martin's "Man In Chair" epitomizes every theatre lover who relishes the prospect of being entertained by a live Broadway show. And The Drowsy Chaperone does that exceedingly well.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
The Curse Of The Understudy (October 2, 2006)
The Tonys: If I Could Vote...for Best Musical (May 31, 2006)
Mixed Reviews Tire The Drowsy Chaperone (May 2, 2006)
Will The Drowsy Chaperone Wake Critics? (May 1, 2006)

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