Pop A Cork, Drowy’s Back

Published: September 27, 2007
Whatever you do, go see The Drowsy Chaperone.

If you’re even remotely interested in the way musical theatre has evolved, you owe it to yourself to succumb to its inspired lunacy.

This is nonsense and nostalgia, mind-blowing silliness, heartwarming inspiration ... wrapped up in a glittering entertainment package.

Starting as a skit written for a bachelor party in 1998, Drowsy went through several metamorphoses before landing on Broadway to the ring of cash registers and five Tony Awards.

I first saw it when Toronto's Mirvish empire presented it at the Winter Garden Theatre in June 2001. I thought it a yawn.

Well, a few million dollars later, with a revamped score and script and a stunning Broadway cast, Drowsy is happily back.

And this time, it’s a winner.

Directed and choreographed by American genius Casey Nicholaw and still starring one of its seminal creators, Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone is deluxe entertainment.

Blessed with an evocative set from David Gallo, period costumes from Gregg Barnes and nifty Larry Blank orchestrations, this is the real thing.

Finally, a musical in Toronto that isn't about kids.

No fresh-scrubbed high schoolers trying to look cute. No screeching lion cubs singing Elton John songs. Just a nostalgic show queen spinning old records, taking us back to the glory days of musical entertainment.

Of course, it's flimsy fluff. But underneath its seductive surface, The Drowsy Chaperone has an undertow of warmth.

Bob Martin makes Man In Chair a sweetly comic conduit to the past. It's difficult to imagine this show without him. He didn't win a Tony on Broadway. He should have.

Martin's all but matched by a terrific, hand-picked cast that betters the one on Broadway.

Andrea Chamberlain is eye-popping as Janet Van De Graaf, the loud-singing, glamourpuss who belts her numbers to the back of the balcony.

Nancy Opel, late of Urinetown and Triumph Of Love, shatters glass in As We Stumble Along, the sort of Broadway showstopper Ethel Merman used to lob into theatre lobbies.

James Moye has fun as narcissistic lover Aldopho.

Mark Ledbetter taps up a storm in Cold Feets, a comic takeoff on all those tap-dancing orgies in Broadway musicals long ago. And Robert Dorfman has fun with the role of Underling, a quirky servant and likable wiseacre.

Add Georgia Engel, as ditzy and darling as ever as Mrs. Tottendale, a sort of ultracurled Bo-Peep, and what have you got? Perfection.

It's Bob Martin, though, who wins hearts.

Along with Toronto pals Greg Morrison, Don McKellar and Lisa Lambert, he concocted this delirious entertainment. Now, after almost 10 years, he has brought this champagne cocktail home. It's cork-popping entertainment, delicious eye-candy.

This is The Boy Friend, No, No, Nanette and The Bandwagon, all rolled into one.

Can you tell I had a good time?