Coming off the hugely entertaining and successful Footloose, Orpheus Musical Theatre steps back and brings us a bit of the 20s with The Drowsy Chaperone. This Canadian musical is a parody of American musical comedy in the 20s, told through the imagination of a middle-aged man as he listens to the record and provides wry commentary to the audience.
Should you see it?
Set in the late 20s, The Drowsy Chaperone sees showgirl Janet Van De Graaff set to give up her fabulous career and walk down the aisle with oil tycoon Robert Martin after the two meet and instantly fall madly in love. There’s a minor hiccup along the way, a lot going on in terms of B-plots and characters, and—well that’s all inconsequential because what The Drowsy Chaperone really is is an imagined version of that musical as presented via the imagination and interactive commentary of the so-called Man in Chair (MiC), who for all intents and purposes is the only “real” character in the production.
I was cringing at the outset of the opening monologue when the MiC complained about plays that break the fourth wall using audience address, oblivious to the fact that he was doing just that. His follow-up joke about wondering when the lights would go and the show would start – when he was the show – wasn’t much better.
I tried not to like him, I really did, but heaven help me if the MiC isn’t a charming bugger who won me over to him completely and quickly once we got under way. Possibly buoyed further by my dear love of the 20s, I was smiling pretty quickly and didn’t stop until long after the curtain.
Integrated seamlessly in Orpheus’ production, the play-within-a-play turns into a wonderful bit of theatre – with MiC interrupting the production to give key info and insight and the show stopping full-tilt, mid-song when there’s an interruption in his world like the phone ringing or the power going out.
Yes, the plot of The Drowsy Chaperone as imagined by MiC is light, very light – even he admits that despite his love/obsession with it it’s a bit hack for a musical — but it’s also very, very entertaining. Each and every number stands on its own for its spectacle, performance, singing, and hilarity.
Andréa Black’s Janet Van De Graaf is a joy to watch through the show, with special commendation for her performance of one of the strangest musical numbers, perhaps ever. Honestly, it needs to be seen to be believed and she deserves praise just for keeping it together with all the silliness happening around her.
Then there’s Dennis Van Staalduinen’s Aldolpho which takes the Latin lover stereotype of 20s film and stage and explodes it to super-sized proportions. He almost steals the show with an entire – hilarious – number all about his name.
Mary Armstrong, as Trix the Aviatrix, only makes her appearance late in the show but has an incredibly powerful voice. And I won’t even go into the Toledo Surprise.
The synopsis in the program calls this show pure entertainment and it really, really is. There’s not much more I can say. It’s just a truly fun time.
But that’s just my opinion and I want to know what you think. Did you love the MiC or did he just get on your nerves? What was your favourite number and why? Join the discussion and let me know what you thought in the comments below.
Orpheus Musical Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone runs at Centrepointe Theatre until March 17th. More info about the show including photos, links to other press, and how to buy tickets can be found in our preview article.