By Kay Kipling
“I just want to be entertained,” says a disembodied voice in the dark at the beginning of The Drowsy Chaperone (now playing at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre), and it’s clear that entertaining us is what the creators of this Tony Award-winning show have set out to do.
No drama, no messages, just fun and a bit of nostalgia in this “musical within a comedy.” And in this piece, with a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, entertaining looks so easy.
The cast of The Drowsy Chaperone.
The show (which I saw in a preview performance) centers on the affection The Man in the Chair (that voice we hear early on; we soon see him as well) feels for an old-fashioned musical from 1928, itself called The Drowsy Chaperone. The Man doesn’t want overpowering songs or impressive special effects or three-hour long masterpieces. He’s feeling “a little blue” (for reasons that gradually become more apparent), and the prescription for his malady is this throwback to a simpler day, when a few hummable show tunes and some stock but amusing character types (the ditsy society matron, a blonde chorine, two not very threatening gangsters in disguise, a tough Broadway producer and a Latin lover) were all that you needed to have a show.
Those characters are all brought together on the very familiar pretext of a wedding, between stage star Janet Van de Graaff (Leigh Anne Wuest) and Robert Martin (Ernest Weldon), the man she just met and for whom she’s willing to give up her career–although one of the evening’s best numbers, Show Off, demonstrates just how much she loves the limelight, as she performs almost every conceivable show biz routine all while claiming she doesn’t want to “show off” anymore. The plot is deliberately slight, just as some of the lyrics to certain tunes are deliberately silly at times (Bride’s Lament, As We Stumble Along).
But it’s all part of the show’s raison d’etre, as The Man in the Chair spins the record of the show’s songs, fills us in with juicy tidbits about its cast, and reveals a little bit about himself as well. By the show’s end, The Drowsy Chaperone has certainly delivered on its promise to entertain.
The Golden Apple cast is well-chosen and well togged-out in costumes appropriate to the era and the characters (by Dee Richards). Choreographer Dewayne Barrett has given the show some fun dance numbers, including the cheerful tapping of Cold Feets. And co-directors Kyle Ennis Turoff and Robert Ennis Turoff keep the action moving with a flair for the material.
The cast is really an ensemble affair, but I will single out newcomer Lauren Clark as chorine Kitty, right on target as the bimbo; Ryan Kimball Fitts as the brash producer; Kyle Turoff as the hard-drinking chaperone; and Wuest as Janet (her singing is not outstanding, but her comic and physical attributes are right). And especially Bajjaly, whose enthusiasm for the show he’s describing is contagious and whose rapport with the audience is immediate.
The Drowsy Chaperone continues through June 27; for tickets call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com.