"The Drowsy Chaperone" is a show I was unfamiliar with, and the synopsis I found was roughly: Man relives and shares his love of the 1920's Jazz Age. That was NOT the summary Moonlight released, but was from another source I found, and as you might imagine I came in with very low expectations.
And boy was I mistaken. It's rare for me to spend nearly two hours with an uncontrollable smile, but it started about 2 minutes after the production began, and lasted until I was in the parking lot in my car; it only stopped when I didn't win the 50/50 raffle.
The show isn't rocket science. Even now, the nitpicky negatives are: the set wasn't the best I've seen; the costumes were numerous and carried well but has some anachronistic parts; the sound levels were good against the whole cast singing on stage but occasionally drowned out a soloist.
I loved just about everything else.
The cast, and the director LaVonte Rogers, took a good script, added energy and a willingness to throw themselves into their characters, AS A GROUP, that I've rarely seen. The individual actor range from decent to great, but the group is greater than the parts (so to speak) - and this was probably the best production I've seen as a reviewer. It WORKED - bravo to all involved!
The 'Man in the Chair' (Dan Martin) is the narrator of the piece, drawing the audience in to listen one of his favorite records, the cast recording of the 1928 Broadway production of 'The Drowsy Chaperone', which has as it's thin story a wedding that goes wrong. Martin has marvelous comedic timing, and reminded me of an archtypical family Uncle who's a bit 'off' but harmless in his hobbies. I'll be *very* surprised if Martin doesn't win a Best Actor award from Moonlight for this role.
The Bride and Groom are famous Broadway actress Janet Van de Graaf (Marann Curtis) and her fiance, Robert Martin (Jeffrey Lane Sadecky). Their acting outshone their singing chops, but I suspect the material itself did that and can't judge them harshly. Their duet 'Accident Waiting to Happen' was extremely well-done, and (without spoiling the scene, there is apparently a lot of trust between these two) their chemistry here was fantastic.
In one of the funnier scenes - I'm not much of a slapstick fan, but this just clicked for me - Mrs. Tottendale (who's providing the venue for the wedding, played by Denise Truscott) and Underling (her butler, played staggeringly well by Michael Ottinger) go through 8-9 spit-takes in a row, right in Ottinger's face. How they manage to do it without cracking on stage in a mystery, but even with the repetition I thought it hilarious.
In a world of broad characters, *someone* had to be closer to 'normal', and here it's Mr. Feldzeig, Janet's producer (Scot Smith). The part as written is a little flat, and Smith does his best to make sirloin out of hamburger. He's helped in this by Kitty (a chorus member looking to move up to lead in Janet's absence, played by Madison McGrew). McGrew is marvelous as the ditzy and enthusiastic blonde stereotype, but she's so effervescent in the role that the stage may as well have been hers alone.
The final pair I'll try to cover is the actual Chaperone for Janet (played by Brea Gregory) and Adolpho (picture a cheesy Latin lover version of Pepe Le Pew, played with scenery-chewing swagger by Giancarlo Osorio). Gregory (in my opinion, for what that's worth) has the best pipes (or best opportunity to show them off!) in the show, and (SPOILER!) Osorio's character mistakes the Chaperone for the Bride and seduces her in the most egotistical manner possible - a duet of his name ("I am Adolpho").
I don't feel I can say this enough, or more emphatically - GO SEE THIS PRODUCTION. I'll end this with one of the last lines of the show, delivered by the Man in the Chair, that summarizes Moonlight's production in the best way possible:
"It does what a musical is supposed to do. It takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry with you in your head, you know? A little something to help you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you're feeling blue. You know?"
Rating: A+: mostly Family friendly, a few double entendres that small children wouldn't get. GO GO GO.