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‘Drowsy Chaperone’ a magical piece of meta-theatre


Janet Van De Graaf is marrying Robert Martin. The glittering starlet of Feldzieg’s Follies is leaving the stage for love. When wealthy widow Mrs. Tottenham decides to host the wedding of the year at her palatial estate, she gets more than just a nice write-up in the society pages. Horrified at the prospect of losing his star, Feldzieg, has hired a more-vain-than-verile Latin lover by the name of Aldolpho to seduce the bride and, not willing to leave Feldzieg to his own devices, his angry and anxious principal investor has sent two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs to make sure that wedding doesn’t take place. Can the Drowsy Chaperone foil Aldolpho’s plans? Will the best man, George, make sure that Robert makes it to the wedding on time or will he inadvertently torpedo the very nuptials he’s trying to promote? These are the antics that are afoot in the fictitious 1928 musical comedy known as The Drowsy Chaperone, on stage at Fort Myers Theatre February 22 through March 3.

The Drowsy Chaperone is a magical piece of meta-theatre. An ode to melodrama, this playful, heartfelt parody of the 1920s musical comedy is the lighthearted antidote to the angst and malaise of the election cycle. It features a chirpy jazz age score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, and a lively, clever book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar (both were Tony winners in 2006). The score boasts such tunes as the scenery-chomping “Show Off,” the sizzling and silly “I Am Aldolpho,” the double-entendre laden “Toledo Surprise” and “As We Stumble Along,” a rousing anthem to optimistic alcoholism.

Terry Lavy plays the “man in the chair.” He’s anything but sedentary. The man in the chair is actually the character who breathes life into the characters that spring from the dusty old vinyl of a long-forgotten 1928 musical that he plays on an old record player straight out of the legendary Edison Phonograph Company. It is Lavy’s task to provide context, offer insight and advance the storyline. The script gives him a number of quips and droll one-liners, which he will no doubt deliver with apt dry wit and in a disarming conversational tone.

Sue Smith plays the hostess with the mostest, the ineffable Mrs. Tottendale. Michael Towns is her underling. The duo teams up to deliver a routine that’s anything but sophisticated and will remind older audience members of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” comedy routine. After telling Underling that “water” will be code for gin during the wedding, Tottendale asks for an actual glass of water. Naturally, Underling brings her straight gin, which she predictably spews all over him before demanding water for real. Once again, of course, he brings her vodka, which she once again spits out in his direction.

Allison Ceralde and Kagan Vann are cast in the roles of betrothed Janet Van de Graaf and Robert Martin, with Noah Lynch playing the part of Robert’s best man, George.

From the times of Jean Harlow (Dinner at Eight, Bombshell) and Marilyn Monroe (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire) to Suzanne Somers and Kaley Cuoco (at least in the earliest episode of Big Bang Theory and as the ultra-dumb but incredibly attractive Bridget on 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter), comely actors such as Valerie Prottsman have been challenged to portray shallow social climbers. Prottsman will no doubt relish depicting her character, Kitty, in this way, with her portrayal guaranteed to elicit the sympathy of every female audience member who’s ever felt overlooked, unappreciated and taken for granted by her employer, co-worker or the man in her life.

Jessica Turner tackles the role of Janet Van de Graaf’s less-than-responsible protectress. But Turner’s character is self-sacrificing if nothing else. When Aldolpho mistakes her for Janet, our endearing chaperone takes one for the team.

Emory Ambriosio plays Aldolpho, the randy rascal who’s a slave to his love of women. If words are a woman’s weakness, then the rake is a master of seductive language, employing the musical timbre of his voice and exceptional eloquence to hypnotize and ensnare his quarry. Of course, The Drowsy Chaperone is a spoof, which makes Aldolpho a more of a journeyman in his craft, but his repartee with Turner’s character is nevertheless a joy to behold. For as satisfying as their back-and-forth may be, the seductive dance number that the couple perform is even more mesmerizing.

Emma Luke-Said is Trix the Aviatrix, who is representative of the brave, daring-do and pioneering spirit of a ‘20s-era aviatrix. Bessie Coleman would have no doubt been honored to have a stand-in as accomplished and swashbuckling as the fabulous Ms. Luke-Said.

The Drowsy Chaperone plays at Fort Myers Theatre February 22 through March 3rd. Go here for play dates and times.

February 15, 2024.

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