This breezy night at the theater blows by before you have time to think about where you might stop after the show. Bob Martin is at ease chatting with the audience as if those people gathered in the Marquis Theatre were a single, close friend; the Man decides to share with us one of his favorite bubbly-as-champagne musical comedies of the 1920's: The Drowsy Chaperone. As he pulls out the record (yes, a record album) and sets it on the turntable, he sighs that its scratchy sound is like a time machine starting up -- and, just like that, the refrigerator doors become a magic portal through which the madcap characters of the old musical enter one by one. They introduce themselves and set up the story of the show in the effervescent opening number, "Fancy Dress."
The show within the show is light as air; the characters and relationships have the density of cotton candy, the plot twists are ridiculously simple and easily spotted from the top row of the mezzanine, and there is (of course) a happy ending. It's all about being whisked away to another time and place that is more joyous and full of color than everyday life in the present.
We see the entire show through the eyes of Bob Martin (portraying the man in the chair) as he colorfully narrates and comments as the story unfolds. His rollicking commentary on the singing, plot twists, and song lyrics keep this Tony nominated show moving at a frenzied pace.
Unfortunately, as an audience member, I am two-for-two in missing Tony Award winning performers. Beth Leavel, who won the Tony for featured actress in a musical, was absent on this steaming July night and her stand-in was adequate. You can tell that someone, and something, else is needed in this pivotal role.
Sutton Foster is divine, and she was there (unlike other "stars") singing and dancing in her own heavenly manner. It is worth it to see this show just to see Ms. Foster in the stunning number, “Show Off.” Her physicality and choreographed staging in this “star” number is career making almost on its’ own. Sutton Foster possesses a captivating voice and style that is unmatched in its timbre on the Broadway stage of 2006.
Other notable performances are given by Georgia Engle of The Mary Tyler Moore show as Mrs. Tottendale, and Danny Burstein as Aldolpho. These two are comedic geniuses at work! Their slapstick comedy is totally unique on Broadway today.
But, it’s the laughter which captures the essence of this show. The Drowsy Chaperone provides more than ninety minutes of full, frolic, and escape time from anything realistic, and it does so in a sophisticated method. While there are undertones of bawdy humor, these undercurrents remain understated and it is apparent that the authors make no attempt at sending any lame, socialist, liberal commentary to our political leaders. The creators, designers and performers provide us with old-fashioned show-stopping numbers, great Ensemble acting, and a quality product free from political statements and Disney scams.