'Chaperone' brings bygone stage musicals back to life

Written by DSM Columnists on Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 2:01 PM

06/05/2008 CST
The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
'Chaperone' brings bygone stage musicals back to life
by Mark Lowry
View article on their website here

DALLAS -- On its champagne-fizzy surface, The Drowsy Chaperone is a homage to the kind of musicals they just don't make anymore.

But if you're a true musical theater buff -- you wouldn't think of trading your vinyl copy of Pal Joey for 100 special-edition CDs of Wicked -- then this love letter to the theater is so much more. And the vibrant, tremendously good tour at Fair Park Music Hall is bound to tickle you every shade of pink.

The show won five Tonys in 2006, and it's easy to see why. It spoofs the broadly comic situations and sometimes perplexing lyrics of Jazz Age shows, and sets it up ingeniously.

A narrator, simply called Man in Chair (Jonathan Crombie), is home alone, about to play his double LP of one of his favorite musicals, a fictional one called The Drowsy Chaperone. As he does, the 1928 characters come to life in his apartment. He frequently pauses for asides about musicals, theater, intermissions and overly silly comic relief. And the more he drinks, the more he gets into it. And so do we.

The confection he loves so much centers on the decidedly uncomplicated plot of actress Janet Van De Graaff (Andrea Chamberlain), who will give up her career to marry the rich and dashing Robert (Mark Ledbetter). Satellite roles include the ditzy Mrs. Tottendale (Georgia Engle from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, reprising the role she played on Broadway), a tap-dancing best man (Richard Vida), the stereotypical Latin lover Adolpho (James Moye) and the tipsy-but-wise title character (Nancy Opel). They're all fantastic, capturing that 1920s spirit.

Crombie is funny, sad and utterly real, immersing himself in the role of a man who would be lonely if not for his collection of cast recordings. If you've ever caught yourself singing along in the car -- and in various character voices -- to, say, A Little Night Music, then you'll identify.

I, of course, know no one like that.

The Drowsy Chaperone
Through June 15
8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and June 8; 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and June 12
Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave., Dallas
817-467-2787 or 214-631-2787; www.dallassummermusicals.org

Be advised: Nothing offensive
Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

Best reason to go: The show itself and this cast. Funny, energetic and moving.
Mark Lowry, 817-390-7747

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