The best love affair on Broadway this year is between a lonely man and the original cast recording of his favorite 1920s musical.
In spite of its awkward title and a red and black logo that resembles a blood clot, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is an absolute treasure for theatergoers who truly cherish the golden age Broadway musical. It was originally created as a wedding present for Bob Martin in 1998, and has since then been developed at a variety of fringe and professional theaters.
The show is a postmodern commentary on musical comedy delivered by “The Man in the Chair” (Bob Martin). Seeking escape from his humdrum life, the devoted fan plays an LP record of the long-forgotten 1928 musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and the show suddenly materializes in full form within his tiny apartment. (Please note that “The Drowsy Chaperone” never actually existed in 1928 as a musical.)
The show within a show of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is a ludicrous, old-fashioned tale of a wedding day involving a narcissistic actress (Sutton Foster), flamboyant foreigner (Danny Burstein), aviator, gangsters and more. Though a power outage suddenly stops the recording, The Man in the Chair begs for our patience and manages to save the day.
The bits of slapstick comedy are entertaining and the songs are cute, but it is Bob Martin’s avid enthusiasm and adorable personality that drive the show’s success. One could even think of “The Drowsy Chaperone” as an ordinary musical comedy starring Sutton Foster inside of an extraordinary one-man show starring Bob Martin.
In his debut as a director, Casey Nicholaw deserves credit for making this unusual production move so well. And the cast members of the musical-within-the-musical are brilliantly charming in their purposely one-dimensional roles.
Compared to the current onslaught of terrible programming like “Hot Feet” and “Lestat,” “Drowsy” is a desperately nostalgic wish to revisit a time when musicals were just about fun. This show cannot be missed by anyone who has ever fallen in love with a Broadway musical. More than just brains or courage, “The Drowsy Chaperone” has miles and miles of heart.
Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, 212-307-4100, $25-110. Mon-Tues 8pm, Wed 2 & 8pm, Thurs-Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm. Open Run.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.