By Jeff Weinstein
In a time when musicals are often musclebound with self-important seriousness,
like a cupcake smothered under a gallon of buttercream frosting, there is a man who is not afraid to take a stand for madcap silliness, tap dancing, Buzby-Berkley-style production numbers, lilting Great American Songbook melodies, dazzling costumes and a happy ending.
This man is none other than . . . Man in Chair — a wacky nebbish who is a cross between Mr. Rogers and Martin Short’s warped, hyperactive Ed Brimley character. This chieftain of Broadway nostalgia is a lonely recluse ensconced like a hermit crab inside his modest apartment.
But it doesn’t stay lonely for long. He is here to share with us his pride and joy, a double album of his favorite 1928 delight, the romping (faux) musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone.
The needle of his record player transports the audience into this show within a show, where, via Man in Chair’s Walter Mitty-like imagination, the audience gets to eves drop on a Broadway diva, Janet Van De Graff (Noelle Carney), who has abandoned her latest show on the Great White Way for love and marriage to her debonair fiancé, Robert Martin (Jeffrey Tankersley).
The Drowsy Chaperone (Loressa McGowan), is a hooch-swilling middle-aged actress whose job it is to chaperone Janet and prevent her from seeing her groom on their wedding day. But there’s dirty work at the crossroads, as her musical producer Feldzieg (Ernie Lopez) is hell bent on quashing these nuptials and roping her back onto the stage. Impetus to reclaim his star comes from two gangsters masquerading as pastry chefs who will kill him if he fails.
A ditzy chorine, Kitty (Julia Paris), wants to replace Janet, but in repeated hilarious turns demonstrates that there’s enough air between her ears to float the Hindenburg. Enlisted to stop Janet from pledging her throth is over-the-top Latin lover, Adolpho (Christian Zumbado), who must seduce Janet and steal her away from Robert.
There is no shortage of glamorous production numbers, this show boasting a trove of ’20s-steeped song and dance, embodied in such engaging whimsy as “Cold Feets,” “As We Stumble Along,” “Toledo Surprise” and “I Am Adolpho.”
Man in Chair not only introduces every bounding vignette, he is so bursting with love for them, this scene-stealer sporadically interrupts them as well. He even yanks his telephone from the wall at one point for ringing during the show.
This musical is the cat’s pajamas, so grab your spats and straw hat, put on your raccoon coat and twenty-three skidoo to the box office and snag some tickets today! The only excuse for missing this show is that you were attacked by Indians, kidnapped by a UFO or eaten by your dog along with your homework.