By PAM HARBAUGH
It’s all about fun and talent at Titusville Playhouse’s laugh-a-minute production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” But, oh dear, in the pursuit of entertainment, TPI’s production misses the heart.
This brilliant 2006 musical was written to have the rare combination of both froth and poignancy. It received Tony Awards for the music and lyrics (by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison) and . its book (by Bob Martin and Dan McKellar). It also received the Drama Desk’s Outstanding Musical Award. This was the same season that Broadway saw other major original productions like “The Color Purple” and “Jersey Boys” and the revival of The Threepenny Opera starring Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper. So you know “The Drowsy Chaperone” has to have some grit to stand up to those.
And it does.
It begins in the dark. The audience hears a man speaking. In a wonderful monologue, he shares his excitement about the theater, his plea that it be short and his disdain of shows that use the gimmicky convention of placing actors in the audience. We already have the idea that here is an urbane man. However, when the lights come up we see that he is, in fact, a lonely, middle-aged man living in run down, dismal apartment (or rather, it should be). Known only as “Man in Chair,” he wears an old sweater that suggests moths are his only visitors. Still addressing the audience, he pulls out an old LP of a fictional 1920s musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.” He lovingly cleans this dear item left to him by his mother then places it on the record player….et voila! His sad surroundings are transformed into gaiety. Colors bloom, fascinating people arrive, wit abounds and life for Man in Chair has become….well…livable.
It’s enough to make you cry just thinking about it, right?
But TPI’s production doesn’t go there. It stays light-hearted and buoyant throughout. The Man’s sweater looks like it’s straight from Aspen. His surroundings, designed by Emily Hartig, are pretty nice. He’s probably got lots of visitors. One peek into his well stocked fridge shows that he certainly has plenty of food and drink to offer them. For sure, director Steven Heron’s concept of entertainment through and through keeps the audience enthralled. They love it. And why not? The cast brims with talent. The production numbers bound with energy and clever choreography.As Man in Chair, Mark Hardin is very well cast. He works the audience and gives them a great time; and he endears when he cleans the record and talks about sweet relationship with his mother. On opening, when the enthusiastic audience wanted to get in on the act and serve up some one-liners of their own, Mr. Hardin handled them with aplomb with the great line “I work alone.”
Alexander Browne and Danielle Irigoyen are perfectly pert as handsome oil tycoon Robert Martin and gorgeous movie star Janet Van deGraaff. Ms. Irigoyen’s “Show Off” number is fun and stays with you for days. While he serves up another great job as choreographer, Alexander Nathan is also a hoot as Latin lover Adolpho especially with Traci McGough as the booze swilling chaperone in “I Am Adolpho.”
Jonathan Adler lays on the Hollywood producer “charm” as Feldzieg, and has some good numbers with the ingenue Kitty, played with hysterical abandon by Ember Everett. Joshua Kolb and Ben Youmans are funny and in tight timing as the two profiterole baking Gangsters. And William Merklinger shows off some tapping talent in “Cold Feets.”
So, yes…no doubt there is scads of talent and entertainment value to TPI’s “The Drowsy Chaperone.” You will laugh throughout and have a good time. It’s just that there could be more. And we always want more, don’t we? It could leave you with a real zing.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Drowsy Chaperone” runs through June 5 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $20 to $26. Call 321-268-1125, visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com or click onto their ad on the right side of this page.