The lights fade into black. A hushed whisper rolls through the crowd until there is silence. A voice is heard from the stage, yet the lights remain off. The audiences’ eyes adjust to the dark and a man’s silhouette becomes visible. After a minute or so in the dark, lights flood the stage.
This unexpected start to the musical The Drowsy Chaperone is only the beginning of the unconventionality within the play. The play is directed by Ezra Flam and is based off of the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar.
The Man in Chair, played by Julian Hermano, brings the audience back in time through a record of the 1928 Broadway show, The Drowsy Chaperone. As soon as he moves the phonographic arm to the edge of the turntable, the stage comes to life with colorful set design, costumes and personalities.
The play continues to jump from 1928 to the present as the Man in Chair pauses the record to give an honest and blunt critique of the play and to reveal details of his pathetic life story.
In between the Man in Chair’s moments of comedic despair is a story about the pre-marital worries of a bride, played by Lily Waldron, and a groom, played by Eli Cherry, on their wedding day. To make matters more complicated, Feldzeig, a big time show business producer, played by Asa Sutton, and Aldolpho, the self-proclaimed “King of Romance”, played by David Friedman, plot to destroy their marriage.
Thankfully, the Man in Chair has some reassuring thoughts about the dramatic plot.
“Will it work out? Of course it will! Everything always works out in musicals,” says the Man in Chair.
Comedy is deeply woven into both 2012 and 1928, which keeps the constant shifts in time period from becoming contrived and choppy.
This play has elements of provocation as well, ranging from spitting to prohibition, racist accents to pornography, and dancing the tango to cheating on a fiancé.
“What kind of world do we live in where we can’t discuss the similarity between pornography and musical theater?” the Man in Chair asks during one scene. The comedic storyline may be simply lighthearted, but the acting and singing itself was impressive.
The Drowsy Chaperone, played by Laura Jacobs, manages to sing and dance without ever letting go of her alcoholic beverage.
“It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world,” said the Man in the Chair. And so does this charming production.
The Drowsy Chaperone will be preformed in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium until Saturday, Feb. 11.
Sabine Shaughnessy can be contacted at [email protected]