Review: Goodspeed Stages “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The cast of Goospeed Musicals’ The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

by Mark G. Auerbach

How novel! A musical comedy about people who love musicals, produced by a theatre totally devoted to musical theatre!  The Drowsy Chaperone is a valentine to anyone who loves the good old Broadway musical. In an hilarious blend of nostalgia, musical theatre, and comedy, a “man in chair” shares his favorite original cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone”. As he describes the plot of the silly musical and the backstories of its stars, The Drowsy Chaperone comes to life in his small studio apartment.

The Drowsy Chaperone is a pastiche-filled souffle of those musicals of the 1920s, complete with “mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding”: a Broadway star, giving up the stage to marry her tycoon boyfriend; her Broadway producer and his ditzy chorine girlfriend; the dizzy hostess and her manservant, two gangsters dressed up as pastry chefs, the groom’s best man, a Latin lothario, an aviatrix, and of course, a drowsy lush of a chaperone.

The cast of Goospeed Musicals’ The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

The Drowsy Chaperone was born in Canada, and came to Broadway in 2006, picking up five Tony Awards, including nods for Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Score of a Musical. It’s had a successful Broadway run and subsequent tour, and there have been productions from Australia to Helsinki.  And, as The Man in The Chair might share, The Drowsy Chaperone originated as an entertainment for the engagement of the original “Man in the Chair” Bob Martin and Janet Van Der Graff, for whom the Broadway actress is named. Janet was originated by Sutton Foster on Broadway. Her brother, Hunter Foster is director of the Goodspeed production.

Hunter Foster’s direction is breezy, and Chris Bailey’s choreography, from the fabulous taps of “Cold Feets” to the exuberant “Toledo Surprise” Charleston is dynamic. Michael O’Flaherty’s music direction, aided by excellent orchestrations by Dan DeLange bring out the best of the score.

Howard Jones’ set is novel, morphing from a small studio apartment into a lavish musical, and Gregg Barnes’s costumes, from the Roaring Twenties chic to the exotic, are superb. So are Mark Adam Rampmeyer’s wigs, especially Mrs. Tottendale’s ornate curls. Kirk Bookman’s lighting makes set and costumes sparkle.

The cast of Goospeed Musicals’ The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

The entire cast is terrific. I loved John Scherer as the Man in The Chair, Clyde Alves’ and Tim Falter’s nimble footwork; Jennifer Allen’s woozy Chaperone, and brothers Blakely and Parker Slaybaugh as the gangsters.

How could I not love The Drowsy Chaperone? I’m one of those people who thrives surrounded by showtunes. They play on my commutes to work. They stream on my devices all day, courtesy of 88.9fm/WERS’ “Standing Room Only”. https://standingroom.org/  They swirl in my head throughout the day. Broadway Musicals-The Classics, Broadway Babylon and Forgotten Musicals groups clutter my Facebook feed. I revel in The Capitol Steps and Randy Rainbow satires set to show tunes. And more than that, I love musicals, both new ones and old ones.

I think The Drowsy Chaperone was written with me and my friends in mind, along with the fans of Goospeed Musicals.  Don’t miss this Goodspeed spectacular.


Goodspeed Musicals presents The Drowsy Chaperone.  Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Directed by Hunter Foster. Music direction by Michael  O’Flaherty. Choreography by Chris Bailey. Scenic Design by Howard Jones. Costume Design by Gregg Barnes. Lighting Design by Kirk Bookman. Sound Design by Jay Hilton. Wigs & Hair Design by Mark Adam Rampmeyer. Orchestrations by Dan DeLange . Through November 25..Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT. For tickets: 860-873-8668 or www.goodspeed.org.

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB.

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