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Director Talks About “The Drowsy Chaperone” At Playhouse 111

Wheaton Drama opens its 2010-2011 season with the musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. Below, director Craig Gustafson talks about the show.

 

If you’re a fan of musical theatre and you have ever sat through a show like Anything Goes saying to yourself, “This plot is insane.  There is no coherence whatsoever.  And I love it!” – then you need to see The Drowsy Chaperone.

 

The Drowsy Chaperone is the Little Show That Could.  It originated as a bachelor party sketch for Second City performer/writer Bob Martin and grew into a show that was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards in 2006.  It won five of them, including Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical.  One of its advertising slogans was, “This is a Word of Mouth show.  Your mouth has been selected.”

 

The official designation for what Drowsy does is “a musical within a comedy”.  The comedy concerns an agoraphobic man in his New York apartment (designated “Man in Chair”), who could be The Odd Couples Felix Unger five years after he’s run out of friends who will let him live with them.  Twitchy, fussy, lovable and lonely.  Man in Chair greets the audience and plays a record for them – a faux original cast album of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, an opulent piece of 1920s stagecraft which proceeds to come to life in his drab living room.

 

The musical concerns a weekend at a Long Island estate (think of the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers), with glamorous Broadway star Janet Van de Graaff set to marry millionaire Robert Martin, despite the machinations of producer Victor Feldzieg to keep Janet in his show Feldzieg’s Follies by scuttling the wedding.

 

So while we are seeing a goofy, inane (and hilarious) 1920s musical with terrific songs and dances, Man in Chair tells us about the “actors” performing it in 1928 and narrates the action, simultaneously lambasting silly musical theatre conventions and loving them deeply.

 

The structure is a gimmick similar to that in William Goldman’s book, “The Princess Bride”, where Goldman claims that he is merely translating and editing a real book that his father used to read to him at bedtime.  This allows him to (A) cut away the alleged deadwood from the writing and (B) comment on the story, the action and the writing style.

 

For the Wheaton Drama production, we have the same artistic staff from last season’s hit production of Chicago – Sue Kinney as musical director, Tracy Adams as choreographer and myself directing.  We were able to get a terrific ensemble cast for one of the funniest musicals you will ever see.

 

With Chicago, we put together a very dark, stinging picture of the 1920s, with an adult audience in mind.  The Drowsy Chaperone is very light and sunny.  If it were a movie, the rating would be a very mild PG.  If you want to get your kids interested in musicals, this would be a good place to start.

 

If you love Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin musicals for their beautiful music, exquisite dancing and screwy plots, this show is for you.  If you like Waiting for Guffmanesque commentary that can simultaneously needle and love, this show is for you.  Or if you just want to have a good time, this show is for you. 

 

Performances of The Drowsy Chaperone are September 17-October 10, 2010. Shows are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm; Thursdays at 3pm. Tickets are $21 each, except for Thursdays, which have a special price of $18 each. The Drowsy Chaperone is presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

 

Other shows in Wheaton Drama's 2010-2011 season are Little Women, Twentieth Century, All My Sons, and 1776.

 

For tickets and information, please visit www.wheatondrama.org, or call 630-260-1820.

 

At play since 1931, Wheaton Drama's productions are staged at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street in downtown Wheaton. Excellent restaurants and free parking are within walking distance. 

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