BWW Reviews: Fine Arts Center's THE DROWSY CHAPERONE - A Celebration of Musicals and Those Who Love Them
"I hate the theater; it's so disappointing," may be the most ironic opening line in recent memory. The Drowsy Chaperone, is nothing less than a celebration of musical comedy in all its beautiful and frequently absurd glory, and the Fine Arts Center's production of it is as entertaining an experience as you can find in the region right now.
The Man in Chair (Scott RC Levy), who delivers this line, doesn't hate theater so much as he is aggressively nostalgic for its perceived golden era. The walls of his apartment are lined with photographs and lobby cards from a bygone age, and on an old LP turntable he plays the cast recording for the eponymous 1928 musical by "Gable and Stein." As the needle hisses across the old vinyl, the dingy apartment is transformed-characters pop out of the refrigerator, sets unfold from the walls, and both Man in Chair and audience are transported into the story.
The Drowsy Chaperone is, in fact, two stories wrapped around each other. There is the show within the show, a series of pre-wedding complications involving the young lovers (Max Ferguson and Becca Vourvoulas), the bride's perpetually soused chaperone (Amy Sue Hardy), a comical lothario (Stephen Day), and a pair of gangsters (TJ Norton and Nick Madson) among others. This story, like those of the pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals Drowsy Chaperone spoofs, is little more than a framework to hang the songs on. The scores of those shows, written by the likes of Gershwin and Porter, justified that indulgence, so it's fitting that Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison's wonderfully catchy and clever songs are this piece's strongest point. There's a jazzy tap dance (for Ferguson and Zachary Seliquini Guzman as the nervous groom and harried best man), a comical tango (featuring the ever-delightful Day), production numbers, stirring ballads (including showcases for Hardy and Vourvoulas), and more.
Throughout all this, the Man in Chair offers his commentary and criticism, and desperately seeks an escape from the increasingly apparent unhappiness that is his life. He's constantly thwarted not only by intrusions from the outside world, but by his own too-intimate knowledge of the musical's backstage goings-on and trivia. ("It was three days before they found [his] body and by then it had been partially consumed by his poodles," he informs the audience of one of The Players, hastily adding later, "Try not to think of the poodles when you're listening to this.") Levy is an engaging and relatable master of ceremonies for the proceedings, criticizing the art and tropes of musicals with affectionate humor and gradually unveiling the pathetic, sympathetic man who seeks to hide in dreams of a production that played out long before he was born. Director Cory Moosman and Mary Ripper Baker live up to those dreams, creating a sharply-staged fantasy of a musical that matches the ideals of the ardent fan imagining it. The cast, a solid ensemble where every member has a chance to shine, delivers pitch-perfect comic timing and musical numbers with panache. Musicals-and the people who love them-couldn't ask for a finer tribute.
Toe-tapping, knee-slapping, and just plain fun, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE plays at the Fine Arts Center now through June 2nd, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-634-5583 or visit www.csfineartscenter.org.
Scott RC Levy