BWW Preview: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at Theatre Baton Rouge
Humor comes in many forms. It can be sarcastic, cheesy, slapstick, witty or just downright goofy. If you are looking for a lighthearted evening of theatre that manages to keep you laughing the entire night, then Theatre Baton Rouge's production of "THE DROWSY CHAPERONE" certainly fits the bill.
Directed by TBR Artistic Director Jenny Ballard, "THE DROWSY CHAPERONE," with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, is billed as "a musical within a comedy" and it celebrates the fun and silliness of musical theatre in way that is both hilarious and heartwarming.
"I really love this show," Ballard said. "I can't think of many musicals that exist that are also legitimate farces. I can think of a lot of musicals that are comedies, but I can't think of many musicals that are farces. And this is a farce. That's a really fun thing."
"The Drowsy Chaperone" opened on Broadway in 2006 and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and the Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. The plot features a little of everything, from the bride who is giving up the stage for love, the debonair bridegroom, jovial gangsters posing as pastry chefs, and of course, one very drowsy chaperone. The show features Terry Byars, Jennifer Johnson, Bill Corcoran, Austin Ventura, Garrett Smith, Robert Wilson, Carole Moore, Collin Smith, Clay Donaldson, Albert Nolan, Marion Bienvenu, Celeste Veillon, Jamie Leonard-Brubaker, and BranDon Smith.
It all centers around the narrator known simply as The Man in Chair (Byars), who takes the show audience through his "favorite record of all time," the original 1928 Broadway cast recording of "The Drowsy Chaperone." The musical literally bursts to life in his living room and is full of songs that are a loving tribute to the music of the Jazz Age.
"Something that I really love is that [this show] is a send-up of 1920s musicals," Ballard said. "The music in it is really great; it's legitimately good 1920s music."
The overlying theme of the show involves the Man in Chair using musicals to escape reality with "The Drowsy Chaperone" helping him to transport to a world of magic and cheer.
"It's really fun because he kind of dictates the action of the musical throughout the play," Ballard said. "He freezes it repeatedly when he stops the record; he can move through the frozen actors that are acting out the musical on stage. He interacts with them quite a bit, but of course, they don't interact with him. It's unlike anything else I've ever worked on."
The show is also a testament to the hard work of the cast as not only do they have to have the energy required for a musical, but the energy for a farce as well.
"They're doing a phenomenal job," Ballard said. "This is a very high-energy cast, to begin with. When we cast the show, we looked at the cast list and said 'This is the best of the best.' They never drop that energy, they always keep that ball in the air.
And there are some very fast song and dance numbers in this show that are really complicated, and you would never know it. They're really on top of their game."
Ballard explains that while the show is pure fluff, for her the message of the play is about the power that theatre possesses to transport us to a different time and location.
"I think ultimately this is a really nice look at how theatre is such a powerful influence and how even in the worst times we can lose ourselves for a little bit and feel better," Ballard said. "This play is really fun, and I think audiences are really going to enjoy it. It's laugh out loud funny."
The Drowsy Chaperone will run from March 10-26. Performances will be Thursday-Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (2:00 p.m.), with an additional matinee on Saturday, March 18.