Thursday, February 3, 2011

Theater review: Nothing 'Drowsy' about this show

By Meredith Deliso

The mousy man in the Broadway memorabilia-filled apartment just wants to be entertained by a story and a few good songs.

And when he’s feeling blue, nothing cheers him up quite like his favorite musical — “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

When the man drops the needle onto a cast album to this fictional musical, characters enter his apartment and the show begins.

“The Drowsy Chaperone,” of course, is not a fictional musical, but an actual one. And its ingenious show-within-a-show construct helped it win the Tony for best book in 2006. But beyond the clever staging, this homage to bygone musicals — the ones with overtures, rousing numbers, and, of course, a happy ending — is filled with all of those things.

The Gallery Players’ new production would certainly not disappoint its narrator, thanks to a plotline right out of one of his cherished Broadway hits. In short, Robert Martin, an oil tycoon, is about to marry Janet Van De Graaff, a Zeigfeld-esque showgirl who’s quitting the stage once she says her vows. Her producer, Mr. Feldzieg, can’t afford to let that happen, and neither can Janet’s guardian, the “chaperone” of the title, who keeps a flask in her furs and a saucy line at the ready. This being a send-up of 1920s musicals, obviously mistaken identities, gangster jokes, spit takes and over-the-top numbers ensue.

At the helm of the ensemble, Craig Treubert is extremely affable as the man in the chair, even as he regularly interrupts the show with commentary. As Robert, Eric Weaver is a quadruple threat — he sings, acts, tap dances, and even skates. The drowsy chaperone may be the narrator’s personal favorite, but Edward Juvier easily wins the audience over as the ridiculous Lothario Adolpho, earning laughs in his entrance alone.

It’s an uproarious production that revels in playing with its construct — at one point, the man’s record “skips,” causing the cast to repeat a dance sequence until remedied. Another big number gets cut short by a power outage.

Not all aspects are as winning. The gangsters’ pastry puns got old fast. Feldzieg and a dim-witted showgirl, Kitty, yelled most of their lines, but it was more grating than funny. A bad line isn’t funnier if you say it louder. And some of the charm of the big budget Broadway
production — especially the way the actors entered from inside the refrigerator or from off the bookshelf — couldn’t be attempted here.

But the show is so charming and the cast so talented that those are minor grievances. And it’s selling well, so get your tickets now if you want to be taken away by this highly entertaining production. Because, in the end, aren’t we all just the man in the chair?

“The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Gallery Players [199 14th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenue in Park Slope, (718) 832-0617], through Feb. 20. Tickets $18 ($14 for children and seniors). For info, visit


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