THE DROWSY CHAPERONE by Bob Martin, Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, directed by Casey Nicholaw (Dancap). Elgin (189 Yonge). To October 14. $50-$100. 416-872-5555. Rating: NNNN
The little wedding gift that became a big, Tony-winning Broadway hit is back home, and it proves fizzy, funny and surprisingly touching.
The Drowsy Chaperone is a stereotypical, though fake, 20s musical with a thin plot (a couple can't see each other on their wedding day) and tunes whose melodies are sometimes more pleasant than their lyrics.
The frame story -- as vital as the musical -- focuses on the Man in Chair (co-author Bob Martin ), a lonely guy in a basement apartment filled with theatre memorabilia, things that for him are more alive than the real world. He plays us the show's original-cast recording, filling in the narrative as well. The Man, for whom theatre is escape, has a barbed sense of humour, and his comments on the art form and the cast are as telling as the musical itself.
The terrific Martin never stops reacting to or interacting with the material, even stepping invisibly into the action. His barely disguised, unmet desires give the show its heart.
Also memorable are Mark Ledbetter and Andrea Chamberlain as the engaged couple, Nancy Opel as the upstaging chaperone and Fran Jaye as a dea ex machina aviatrix. Oh, yeah, and Peter and Paul Riopelle as gangsters disguised as punning pastry chefs. Don't ask.
Some of the musical's elements are frivolous or needlessly extended, though that's part of the point. Georgia Engel 's Mrs. Tottendale tries for charming humour but is rarely funny, while James Moye 's Aldolpho, a self-centred Casanova, becomes tedious.
But these are small points. Martin and Don McKellar 's book, tongue firmly in cheek, is affectionate yet wicked fun, while Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison 's songs distill the essence of 20s musicals. Director/ choreographer Casey Nicholaw ties it all up in a brightly staged package.
I don't usually participate in standing ovations, especially at friend-packed openings. I was on my feet at the end of The Drowsy Chaperone.