The recent announcement of the closing of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White (exiting Feb. 19) opened the door for Drowsy, about a rabid musical theatre maven (named "Man in Chair") who introduces the audience to his favorite period musical — 1928's The Drowsy Chaperone, by the fictive writers Gable & Stein.
Audiences who saw earlier versions of the work in Toronto and Los Angeles howled at the experience, which is both parody of, and valentine to, musical theatre.
Bob Martin, who co-wrote the libretto of the new musical, plays the recumbent Man in Chair, who turns on a phonograph of the vintage work's rare cast album. The world of the old musical comes alive around him, in living color.
The booking marks a Marquis homecoming for Drowsy cast member Sutton Foster. She played the title character in Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Marquis, and took home a Tony Award for her turn. In Drowsy, she plays a pampered Broadway starlet who plans to marry and quit showbiz. Critics of the L.A. run have mentioned "Show Off," a featured number for her, as a standout in Drowsy. Rehearsals are expected to begin in early March.
The cast of The Drowsy Chaperone is the same troupe that appeared in the American premiere of it by Center Theatre Group at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre in late 2005. The company of 17 includes Danny Burstein (Titanic), Georgia Engel ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), Sutton Foster (Little Women), Edward Hibbert (Noises Off), Troy Britton Johnson (Damn Yankees), Eddie Korbich (Wicked), Garth Kravits (Toxic Audio), Jason Kravits (Sly Fox), Beth Leavel (42nd Street) in the title role, Kecia Lewis-Evans (Once on This Island), Second City's Bob Martin, Jennifer Smith (The Producers), Lenny Wolpe (The Sound of Music), Linda Griffin (42nd Street tour), Angela Pupello (Grease), Joey Sorge (Follies), Patrick Wetzel (The Producers).
A 15-piece orchestra will sweeten the experience.
According to the producers, "To chase his blues away, a modern day musical theatre addict known simply as 'Man in Chair' (Martin) drops the needle on his favorite LP — the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. From the crackle of his hi-fi, the uproariously funny musical magically bursts to life on stage, telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet (Foster) who wants to give up show business to get married, her producer (Wolpe) who sets out to sabotage the nuptials, her chaperone (Leavel), the debonair groom (Johnson), the dizzy chorine (Smith), the Latin lover (Burstein) and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs (Garth and Jason Kravits). Man in Chair's infectious love of The Drowsy Chaperone speaks to anyone who has ever been transported by the theatre."
The creative team includes scenic designer David Gallo, costume designer Gregg Barnes, lighting designer Ken Billington and Brian Monahan and sound designer Acme Sound Partners. Orchestrations are by Larry Blank, dance and incidental music arrangements by Glen Kelly (The Producers), music director/vocal arrangements by Phil Reno and technical supervision by Brian Lynch. Hair design is by Josh Marquette, make up design is by Justen M. Brosnan.
The Drowsy Chaperone is produced by Kevin McCollum, Roy Miller, Boyett Ostar, Barbara Freitag, Jill Furman and Stephanie McClelland.
The word "original" is a rare thing in the world of musical theatre, but on Nov. 18, 2005, Center Theatre Group opened the U.S. premiere of a musical comedy that's not based on a play, book or film — The Drowsy Chaperone.
Not drawn from source material, but the result of pure imagination, the show's seeds are in a public performance of what was a wedding gift to Toronto Second City actor Bob Martin: In 1998, Martin's friends Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison wrote songs and scenes for an original show called The Wedding Gift, which served as a kind of bachelor party for Martin, his friends — and even strangers.
Martin, Lambert and Morrison thought the lark was too special to let fly away, so they developed the piece into The Drowsy Chaperone, which audiences and critics have called a delicious and wildly comic spoof of musical comedies and their desperately loyal fans.
This new production follows separate, cult-hit developmental productions in Toronto. Previews for the 2005 L.A. run began at the Ahmanson Nov. 10, and performances continued to Dec. 24.
The Drowsy Chaperone was the sleeper hit of the 1999 Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival. After a sold-out run, a full production was presented at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre, where it was lauded by critics and cheered by audiences.
In its recent development, The Drowsy Chaperone was also seen as part of National Alliance for Musical Theatre's 2004 Festival of New Musicals in New York City.
Beginning March 12, tickets will be available via Ticketmaster by calling (212) 307-7171 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. On March 13, the Marquis box office will open.
From Monday April 3 through Monday May 1, The Drowsy Chaperone will play Monday–Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM.
From May 3 on, The Drowsy Chaperone will play Tuesday–Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. There will be no performance on May 2. There will no performance on July 4. A performance will be added on Monday July 3.