"The Drowsy Chaperone" at the IU Auditorium is a very pleasant evening of musical theatre that spoofs musical theatre. The format reminds me a little of "Our Town," but instead of a somewhat dignified and distant narrator describing Grover's Corners we have a very personable, lonely young man, played by John West, who's simply gah, gah about an old musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone." Throughout the evening's single act he winningly shares his enthusiasm even as he lovingly presents scenes from a show that's entirely composed of spoofs of the genre's standard fare.
Elizabeth Pawlowski was the glamorous leading lady who's leaving the theatre for marriage to the handsome wealthy young man played by Matt David. Lindsay Devino was the aging diva who's supposed to keep them apart until the wedding. Robert Micheli was the groom's enterprising buddy. Britt Hancock was the gruff theatrical impresario who can't do without the leading lady. Dennis Setteducati and Marc de la Concha were a couple of winsome, malaprop spouting, gangsters who share his financial concerns. Roberto Carrasco was a sillily romantic Latin Lover. Kristin Netzband was the daffy representative of old money and Matt David was her butler. Jen Percival was an aviatrix who flew by briefly at the beginning and then, as the captain of her air ship, marries everyone as they fly off to join honeymoons. A very nice feature of "The Drowsy Chaperone" is the orchestra. I've gotten used to multiple keyboard and guitars at the Auditorium. They're nice, but what a pleasure to hear a show with trumpets, saxophones, clarinets, flutes and trombones.
Throughout the evening, John West tells the audience about the made up actors from the show complete with stories from their fictional careers on and off stage. His enthusiasm and joy simply bubble over in a charming fashion. Bear in mind that "The Drowsy Chaperone" began as a sort of party trick that was meant to knowingly put down these moldy fig dramas so you have to be in on the irony. However the theatrical magic does have to take hold at least from time to time. The show has some low points along with the highs.
I love tap dancing and was surprised to be unmoved by the groom and his best man's extended tap in "Cold Feet." The leading lady's big number "Show Off" was plenty varied and athletic, but it's somehow a pretty cool piece of work. The gangsters were a neatly synchronized duo, but their "Toledo Surprise" was no "Brush up Your Shakespeare." However, the lovers' "Accident Waiting to Happen" was a neat little tribute to the style. Roberto Carassco's paean to macho love "I Am Adolpho" was a charmer and "The Drowsy Chaperone" does pick up steam as the evening goes on. Kristin Netzband and Matt David's "Love is Always Lovely in the End," though terribly titled was amusing and Jen Percival's leading the cast with "I Do, I Do in the Sky" was a fitting and rousing finale.
The final performance of "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the IU Auditorium is Wednesday, April 1st at eight o'clock.
Listen to WFIU's George Walker's interview with John West.