In the delightful musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone,” the winner of 2006 Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score which opened Tuesday, March 8 at the Victoria Theatre produced by the Human Race Theatre Company and presented on the Victoria Theatre Association’s Miami Valley and Good Samaritan Hospital Broadway Series, a musical theater devotee simply named Man in Chair reflects on his adoration for a 1928 musical of the same name by playing its cast recording for the audience. As an assortment of colorful characters spring to life in his Manhattan apartment, the show-within-a-show marriage of fantasy and reality, meticulously constructed with hilarious, sardonic anecdotes by librettists Bob Martin and Don McKellar, cleverly soars, authentically propelled by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison’s bubbly pastiche songs.
This well cast, Broadway caliber presentation, fluidly directed by director/choreographer Kevin Crewell who predominately adapts the original Tony-nominated contributions of Casey Nicholaw, stars Wally Dunn whose outstanding portrayal of Man in Chair contains an easygoing humility and infectious bursts of bliss. Whether sipping on a juice box or gesturing dramatically under a crescent moon, Dunn wholeheartedly embraces the passion and quirks inherent in his unassuming role which is pivotal since the material would be deflated without an enthusiastic, fully committed narrator.
Although the show relies heavily on Dunn’s engaging personality, the featured roles are also winningly performed. Megan Nicole Arnoldy offers lovely vocals and an appealing stage presence as showgirl Janet Van de Graaff, whose impending marriage to Robert Martin (the handsome Robb Sapp) serves as the catalyst for “Drowsy Chaperone.” Sapp particularly shines near the outset with the catchy tap dance number “Cold Feets” opposite the excellent Richard Vida as George, Robert’s best man. Jana Robbins wonderfully tackles the tipsy titular role with boozy flair. Christopher Gurr displays sharp comedic timing as Latin lothario Aldolpho. Saul Caplan is believably exasperated as Janet’s producer Mr. Feldzieg, who spends the proceedings preoccupied with ditzy ingénue Kitty (a period-appropriate Adrienne Gibbons) and two vaudevillian-esque gangsters posing as pastry chefs (a humorously unified Scott Cote and Steven M. Goldsmith). Human Race resident artists Patricia Linhart and Scott Stoney are a charming duo as Mrs. Tottendale and her dutiful Underling. Shawn Storms, as aviatrix Trix, puts her belting voice to good use as she leads the cast in the cheerful “I Do, I Do In The Sky.” J.J. Tiemeyer, Amy Wren, Eric Byrd and Erica Steinhagen are compatible ensemble players.
In addition to incorporating Gregg Barnes’ stylish Tony-winning costumes, the creative sets, nicely modeled after David Gallo’s Tony-winning creations, are designed by J Branson courtesy of Music Theatre of Wichita. John Rensel and Nathan D. Dean respectively supply effective lighting and sound design. Musical director John Faas energetically conducts a terrific orchestra.
Like the Man in Chair, I encourage you to escape from the dreary horrors of the real world and sample the theatrical joy that is “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
The Drowsy Chaperone continues through Sunday, March 20 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Performances are Wednesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. The show is performed in 105 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $39-$81. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com