Don’t be fooled by the title. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, now at Haddon Township’s Ritz Theatre, could suggest a Restoration comedy, a Victorian melodrama, or any number of things. It’s actually a fictional musical within a comedy, and it’s great fun. At the opening, a man, superbly played by Ritz regular Al Fuchs, sits in a chair at far stage right and talks to the audience. He is a loner and tells us that he hates theatre, but we know he doesn’t. After some humorous chatter, he takes out an old record (yes, record) and puts it on an even more ancient record player. The record, of course, is of his favorite musical, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. As it plays, the characters appear and bring the show to life onstage.
The show, directed with great flair by Ritz Producing and Artistic Director Bruce A. Curless, is actually a parody of 1920s musicals. Broadway singing and dancing star Janet Van De Graaff (Megan Pisors) is about to give up her career to marry a rich young man (Chris McGinnis) and her producer, Mr. Feldzieg (Pat DeFusco) is determined to stop the wedding at all costs. The groom complains of “Cold Feets” and does a marvelous tap-dance number with his best man, George (Joey Quaile) to warm them up. The Chaperone (Emily Lowenstein) is there to keep the bride and groom from seeing each other before the wedding. She becomes drowsy whenever she drinks champagne, which is all the time, so anything can happen.
The Man in the Chair does not stay there; he often gets up and moves around the set, making wryly humorous comments, telling stories about the original stars of the show, and once getting caught up in the action.
Other characters include the fluttery hostess (Jenn Collelouri); her “Underling,” a sort of butler hilariously played by Glen Funkhouser; two typical musical-comedy gangsters (Stephen Coar and Ryan Ruggles) posing as pastry cooks; a supremely self-confident Latin lover (Greg Hutchings) who is supposed to seduce the bride, and a dumb but ambitious blonde chorus girl (Martha Marie Wasser) who wants to replace the star. Last but not least is an aviatrix (Lauren Talvacchio), a true “deus ex machina.” And oh, yes, there is the Superintendent, played by a different person every night. Each was chosen in a contest held during the previous show, BOEING BOEING, or has paid $100 to be on stage.
The singing, dancing and acting are all first-rate, the costumes are gorgeous, and the set, decorated with theatre posters, is fascinating. For sheer entertainment, you won’t find a better show anywhere.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Directed by Bruce A. Curless
April 18-May 18, 2013
Ritz Theatre Company
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ 08137