I don't get it. The Drowsy Chaperone (at the Elgin through Sunday, October 14) makes subverting stereotypes one of its main strategies. So why is the Man in Chair talking with a lisp and mincing all over the stage?
I can't think of a single person who's seen the show who hasn't pushed me, prodded me, begged me to go check it out. "This show was made for you," they tell me. They're referring, of course, to my passion for musical theatre. (For evidence see my gob-smacked response to the Barbra Streisand shows here in Toronto or any of my reviews of the musicals that have taken over the Stratford stage).
So I finally saw the show and I did laugh alot and got all the jokes - the story of one man's obsession with a terrible show from the 20s is meant for theatre geeks - but I wound up squirming at the gay stereotype.
The Man in Chair is one of those pathetic guys who sits in his basement way more excited than any human being should be about a bad musical. He's almost a parody of the old-fashioned internally homophobic gay guy - lonely, projecting his desires on to bad actors, with more sibilants than a Leaf fan hissing at the current crop of losers.
It's strange considering that the show takes on the racist stereotypes that haunted musical stages in America - a sequence showing how the Chinese were demeaned is genius. And the lothario Adolpho - who plays all his roles as varying foreigners using the same ludicrous accent - actively addresses early musical theatre's preoccupation with exoticism.
Maybe I'd be less sensitive to all this were the actor playing the Man in Chair, Bob Martin, himself a gay man. But the story's been told too many times of how the musical began as a wedding gift to Martin and his wife Janet van der Graaf, so here we have a bunch of straight people delivering their take on a queer guy's lonely life.
Wish the Man in Chair had just pushed the envelope a bit and had a quickie with the superintendent who makes a brief appearance in the show - even if the super did like Miss Saigon.
Find NOW's review of The Drowsy Chaperon here.