A Toast to 'The Drowsy Chaperone!'
The Drowsy Chaperone
Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison, Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar, Directed & Choreographed by David Connolly, Musical Direction by Nicholas James Connell; Scenic Design, Jenna McFarland Lord; Costume Design, Seth Bodie; Lighting Design, Karen Perlow; Sound Design, Aaron Mack; Production Stage Manager, Victoria S. Coady; Assistant Stage Manager, Ryan A. Anderson
CAST (in order of appearance): Will McGarrahan, Kerry A. Dowling, Robert Saoud, David Christensen, Brian Swasey, J.T. Turner, Sarah Drake, Ryan Halsaver, Joe Longthorne, Thomas Derrah, McCaela Donovan, Karen MacDonald, Nellana, Ryan A. Anderson; Ensemble: Alison McCartan, Tiffany Chalothorn, Shawn Platzker, Michael Coup
Performances through June 5 at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston Center for the Arts; Box Office 617-933-8600 or www.BostonTheatreScene.com
Allow me to begin with a gush: I loved this show! What better way for SpeakEasy Stage Company to conclude its 20th anniversary season than with the regional premiere of the 2006 multi-Tony Award-winning, crowd-pleasing musical within a comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone? Pepper the cast with the spicy performances of Karen MacDonald and Thomas Derrah, SpeakEasy veterans Will McGarrahan and Kerry A. Dowling, sultry McCaela Donovan and droll Robert Saoud, as well as several faces new to this stage, place them in the capable hands (and feet) of Director/Choreographer David Connolly, and the result is an ensemble production that is anything but drowsy.
When The Drowsy Chaperone rumbled through Boston on tour three years ago, I was not enamored of its heavy-handed silliness that was played extremely broadly to reach the far reaches of the Opera House. However, I looked forward to SpeakEasy's take on it, thinking that a scaled down and more intimate version might better suit the conceit of the show. Quite simply, a die-hard musical theatre fan spins a favorite cast album on his turntable to cheer himself up and the whole extravaganza comes to life in his drab living room. Man in Chair, as he is called, is our theatre critic cum tour guide through the world of the fictional 1928 show The Drowsy Chaperone, eliminating the fourth wall and becoming one with the audience.
In the confines of the 200-seat Roberts Studio Theatre, it works because Man in Chair is the glue that holds it all together and we get an up close view of McGarrahan who is brilliant in the role. He inhabits the persnickety persona of the aging, lonely theatre queen, deftly displaying his eccentricity, but also broadcasting his emotional highs and lows as they ebb and flow with the story of the celebrity bride giving up her career in the limelight in exchange for love and marriage. McGarrahan is a sheer delight to watch as Man anticipates a moment that tickles him, or laments when he thinks a moment is ruined.
M-I-C is the de facto conductor onstage, virtually starting and stopping the action when something needs clarification or editorializing, when his phone rings, when he needs to use the bathroom, or when the record skips. As the spokesperson for the creative team, he lovingly pays homage to musicals in general and American musicals of the Jazz Age in particular. He is neither cloying nor apologetic, accepting the genre, warts and all.