LOS ANGELES, CA - I realized I was old when I spent $80 a ticket on a
show called RENT and left feeling like I didn’t get it. People were screaming and standing on their feet and yet
there I was, confused. I
was the older generation now. Many new shows have the same issue:
performers standing on the lip of the stage, yelling at me for two
hours straight, overacting all the while. What has happened to true
musical comedy and the subtleties in acting? It turns out that it is
not completely dead after all.
Like a breath of
fresh air, is The Drowsy Chaperone, currently playing at
the Ahmanson Theatre. This is the first exciting, truly great musical
I have seen since Sweeny Todd. This
show is witty and keeps the audience in stitches most of the evening.
Poking fun at musical theatre while still paying homage to it,
it addresses nerds and geeks, namely people who still listen to
records, like me. And it
is surprisingly touching, when for a brief moment near the end, you
realize that life is rather sad and disappointing but we have our
musicals that take us away from our grimy little lives and make us
feel better if only for a moment.
Sutton Foster is
one of very few true triple threats.
Her voice is stunning, yet she even manages to execute several
single armed cartwheels (because her wrist is broken) and comes down
into a thigh numbing split. Winning
a Tony Award for her performance as Millie in Thoroughly Modern
Millie, she is vivacious, funny and full of true talent. One of
the best numbers in the show is “Show Off” where Foster insists
that she wants no attention from the world and the media, while
simultaneously usurping every ounce of the limelight.
Beth Leavel as the
Drowsy Chaperone herself, is reminiscent of classic stars like Judy
Garland. Her subtle,
seasoned performance brings the entire production a notch higher.
She speaks with an unforced command that only comes from solid
Bob Martin is a
comic genius, speaking the words we’ve all thought when sitting in a
darkened theatre waiting for the overture to start.
Playing the part of the “narrator” or the Man in Chair, he
gets the show rolling by putting on an old L.P. of his favorite
musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, while hanging around is
dull apartment. As the music begins, the apartment comes to life with
colorful characters, dancers and singers from an bygone era. His comic
timing is impeccable. He even makes eating a Power Bar hilarious and
every nuance of his character is layered with a combination of self
consciousness and a true unbridled joie de vivre for musicals. His
monologue about the plight of a gay man in a straight marriage was
As darling as ever,
just like the days of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, is Georgia
Engel, playing a
delightfully funny airhead: the soft spoken, vapid, neophyte. It is
only slightly distracting when her ukulele strumming does not match
the real ukulele player in the pit, but I suppose the fact that chorus
girls come streaming out of the refrigerator creates an already
unbelievable situation: like most musicals of that time.
That is what makes it so charming.
Kravits and Garth Kravits.
Off" - Sutton Foster
Johnson’s character, The Underling is divine, perfect really, with
every bit of snobbiness and compassion the butler character can
muster. Even funnier than
his recurring role on Frasier, he has to endure being spat on
repeatedly, even by the delicious Ms. Engel, which is a feat few
actors could bare with such comedy and grace.
Adolpho! How many ways can this name be sung? Dozens of
times actually: fast, slow, loud, soft, elongated and every other
possible permutation known to man. During his song, “I Am Aldolpho,” Danny Burstein is
fabulous as he introduces himself to whom he thinks is the bride he is
supposed to seduce, but who is actually the older, eternally drunken
It’s hard to
imagine that two, goofy bakers who sing and dance are really two
gangsters in disguise, but that is exactly the case with Jason Kravits
and Garth Kravits. The
pair adds some of the funniest moments to the show. Rounding out this
stellar cast is Eddie Korbich, Lenny Wolpe, Jennifer Smith, Linda
Griffin, Angela Pupello, Joey Sorge and Patrick Wetzel. Each ensemble
number is a showstopper in itself, especially the final,
aerodynamically charged song, “I Do, I Do In The Sky,” which
features the phenomenal Kecia Lewis-Evans playing the character of
Trix. For an
unforgettable evening of fine performances and exciting new music,
don’t miss The Drowsy Chaperone, now playing through December
24 at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center.
information, visit http://musiccenter.org/calendar/24.html
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