“The Drowsy Chaperone” is not cutting-edge. It’s not modern or risque, and there’s no nudity or violence. It’s an outdated musical that’s full of puns, corny jokes and tired dance moves. And that’s what makes “The Drowsy Chaperone” so fantastic.
Friday night at the Boulder Dinner Theatre, “The Drowsy Chaperone” delighted audiences with its clever take on the old school musical. The original production opened on Broadway in 2006, and pays homage to the classic shows of Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin.
But don’t be mistaken, the show takes place in today’s world. It opens on a shabby apartment where we meet our main character, the aptly named “Man in Chair.” He sits in the corner of the stage telling the audience he’s feeling a bit blue, so to cheer himself up he’s going to play his favorite musical from the 1920s, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” From there the musical literally bursts into his apartment — with some characters even entering through his fridge.
The show within a show is a clever way to enjoy an old-fashioned musical, while still acting as a critique of shows from the past. Even the Man in Chair comments on the lameness of the plot or the spit take scene. But regardless of how edgy the musical isn’t, the crowd still enjoyed it all the same. The jokes might be lame, but they’re self-aware and well thought through. Plus, the show has it all – cartwheels, plate spinning, snake charming, magic tricks – and that’s just in one song.
The best song of the night was the act one final number, “Toledo Surprise.” Despite the song being the height of all major plot conflict, it ends with the entire cast dancing and singing in a moment that’s pure joy.
The long list of characters in the show include gangsters posing as bakers, a former toothpaste model and, of course, the drowsy chaperone. All of the unique characters require talented actors, and the Boulder Dinner Theatre (BDT) didn’t disappoint. The entire cast delivered incredible performances that left the crowd laughing all night.
“Man in Chair,” played by BDT veteran Brian Norber, served as the audience’s ally throughout the show. He guided us through the musical, giving us his personal insight. His extraneous comments, his social anxiety and his obvious crush on Drowsy Chaperone’s lead actor Robert Martin, made the audience fall in love with him.
He is the only character on stage at all times, and Norber delivered a fantastic performance. At times, watching Norber was more entertaining than the action on stage. Whether checking out Martin’s butt during a song or telling the audience about his failed marriage, Norber’s portrayal made the character downright lovable, despite his character not having a proper name.
The real star of the show was the title character, played by BDT star Alicia Dunfee. She plays the alcoholic chaperone who provides sound advice like, “Keep your eye ball on the high ball in your hand.” Her brief presence on stage was always met with laughs, but it was her show-stopping performance of “As We Stumble Along” that sealed the brilliance of Dunfee’s performance.
Essentially, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is about a man who escapes into a musical looking for a place to forget his troubles. With its charm and magic, the show provides the same escapism for the audience.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Amanda Moutinho at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org.