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 The Theatreguide.London Review


The Drowsy Chaperone
Novello Theatre Summer 2007

This show is a total delight, the rare crossover event that will please those just looking for a Fun Night Out while still loaded with wit and theatrical in-jokes for the aficionado. I can't imagine anyone being such a sourpuss as to not have a ball.

From Canada by way of Broadway, the musical presents us with a lonely and, if truth be told, pathetic little man welcoming us to his apartment. A musical buff, he offers to play us the cast album of his favourite show, the (totally invented) 1920s-era Drowsy Chaperone.

And as he puts the record on, the show comes alive, its characters appearing literally out of the woodwork (and out of the fridge, and the fold-up bed) to sing and dance their way through the pastiche. Meanwhile, our host is always present, filling in the plot, identifying and sharing gossip about the (fictional) stars, and being transported by his delight in the music and spectacle.

The pastiche inner musical is a fun parody, its plot about the title character failing to keep a groom from seeing his bride on the wedding day just an excuse for clever versions of the bouncy opening number, the star's big turn and other conventions.

You don't have to spot the wholesale borrowings from Me And My Girl and other period musicals to get the joke, just as it merely adds fun, rather than being essential, if you catch the allusions to Kiss Me Kate, Lady In The Dark and The King And I along the way.

So the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar is witty, the songs by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison delightful both as parody and on their own merits.

Co-author Bob Martin plays our lonely host, filling him with exactly the right level of infectious enthusiasm while not hiding what a sad character the guy really is.

Nominal star of the show is Elaine Paige in the title role, actually an extended cameo. Paige has fun sending up her own image as a height-challenged, spotlight-grabbing diva, while giving a sharply comic performance channelling both Ethel Merman and Judy Garland.

As the bride, Summer Strallen can go from elegant to comically bouncy in a second, never more so than in the big number in which she sings, dances, juggles and does a bit of ventriloquism while asserting what a quiet little homebody she is at heart.

John Partridge as the groom catches just the right note of manly dimness, and there's solid comic support from Anne Rogers, Nicholas Grace, Joseph Alessi and the whole cast.

The posters say something like 'Three Hours of Entertainment in Ninety Minutes" and they're not far off. There's more sheer fun in this fast-paced show than almost anything else in town.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Drowsy Chaperone - Novello 2007