‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ runs through May 12 at the Lyric Stage.

1920s American musical comedy makes a comeback in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

SHARE THIS STORY

HELP SUPPORT JEWISH JOURNAL

1920s American musical comedy makes a comeback in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ runs through May 12 at the Lyric Stage.

Is a feel-good musical entertaining enough? For Man in Chair – the middle-aged armchair aficionado of the Canadian musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” – a 1920s lively musical comedy is the answer.

That kind of dreamy, lively, well-costumed theater magic takes over the fanciful, high-energy revival of the five-time Tony Award winner (2006) currently running at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

At the start of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Man in Chair claims in the purposely dark opening that he hates theater. Quickly, though, this agoraphobic stage right theatergoer reveals that his favorite musical is a 1928 show of the same name and proceeds to play a vinyl recording of it.

As he comments to the audience on the pleasures of 1920s musical comedy, the show-within-a-show comes to life, with Cameron McEachern’s vivid scenic design, Seth Bodie’s very colorful period costumes, and John Malinowski’s nuanced lighting.

Bob Martin and Don McKellar’s often madcap book depends upon a parody of the genre, including mistaken identities, characters in disguise, and unlikely romance. Here, a self-centered gigolo named Adolpho mistakes the tipsy – therefore “drowsy” – Chaperone for musical star-fiancée Janet Van De Graaf. At one point, Janet pretends to be a French woman named Mimi in a sequence during which her dashing but somewhat clueless fiancé, Robert Martin, skates while blindfolded. Wedding-hosting Mrs. Tottendale shares vodka with her attentive butler, and anxious best man George struggles to find a justice of the peace.

During his humorous side commentary, Man in Chair notes stars of the recording of the fictional musical. Under Larry Sousa’s sharp direction, Lyric Stage cast members both capture their roles and smartly resemble the stars to whom Man alludes. Jay Clark has the right appeal as Janet and displays the dynamism Man in Chair attributes to a Jane Roberts. Jared Troilo catches Robert’s cheerfulness and good nature and looks as handsome as purported matinee idol Percy Hyman. Damon Singletary finds all of the business focus of Feldzieg, whom the armchair expert observes was played by a veteran performer named Jack Adler. Maureen Keiller has confidante Drowsy Chaperone’s vulnerability and has all of the presence that Man associates with a supposed great stage actress named Beatrice Stockwell. Christian Mancinas-Garcia captures Adolpho’s amusing gigolo and the style of supposed silent movie star Roman Bartelli.

Matthew Stern – arguably now the dean of Hub music directors – does his best with a sometimes underwhelming Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison score that often seems to parody 1920s fare. Best of all is Paul Melendy’s alternately spellbound and bluesy Man in Chair. Comically gifted Melendy displays all of Man’s expressiveness whether slamming intermissions (none in this musical), reacting at the sidelines to plot entanglements and fantastical situations, and even referring to a chuppah. His virtuoso performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Quite simply, Lyric Stage’s rousing revival of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is an intoxicating pleasure.

The show runs through May 12 at 140 Clarendon St., Boston. For tickets, call 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jewish Journal is reader supported

Jewish Journal is reader supported