THE DROWSY CHAPERONE by Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Don McKellar and Bob Martin, directed by Daniel Brooks, with Dan Chameroy, Jonathan Crombie, Mary Lou Fallis, Karen Hines, Jennifer Irwin, Lambert, Judy Marshak, Martin, McKellar, Frank Moore, Paul O'Sullivan, Ed Sahely and Cliff Saunders. Presented by David & Ed Mirvish in association with Best Man Productions at the Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge). Runs to July 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8:30 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $41-$75. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNNN
several added songs, a new character, some structural tightening and the good sense to know what made it funny in the first place make the new version of The Drowsy Chaperone the cleverest musical in years. What's more, the show's lyricist, Lisa Lambert, may be the most talented musical wordsmith in the city. She could be Sondheim's mischievous niece. I'm not kidding. She's that good.As in previous versions -- Fringe 99, and a remount at Theatre Passe Muraille -- the show consists of an obsessed fan known only as Man in Chair (Bob Martin) recalling a silly 1920s Broadway musical about a wedding, a producer and gangsters.
He plays the original cast recording, giving us a running commentary on the action and the fictional performers' tragic bios.
What ensues is silly and always fun, though occasionally poignant, especially around the theme of aging and how people escape through fantasy.
Impeccably directed by Daniel Brooks, the show revels in its stage stereotypes, from the gum-snapping squealing of Jennifer Irwin's chorine to Ed Sahely's eye-rolling droll butler. The newly added character of Mrs. Tottendale, the flighty hostess (Judy Marshak), adds a nice touch, especially in her bittersweet duet with the butler about forgetfulness.
Karen Hines brings a zesty vanity and self-conscious sincerity to her lines as the leading lady -- her hilarious rendition of the new showstopper Show Off is a highlight -- while Dan Chameroy, probably the city's most reliable musical leading man, uses an indeterminate accent to parody himself and the genre to perfection.
The book, by Martin and Don McKellar, is tight, with only the occasional salty scene -- something about pornography -- needing re-examination. And one or two songs could be excised, like the gangsters' duet about etiquette (even though polite thugs Jonathan Crombie and Cliff Saunders are charming).
What makes the show so exhilirating is that it's postmodern and self-aware without being cloying or patronizing. Instead, it's full of affection and love for the musical medium.
Martin's Man in Chair captures the audience's own rapt devotion. When the piece ends, the real world seems less colourful. Which is the point of the show.
Brilliant. And hey, maybe there'll be an original-cast CD we can play for years.theatre reviews