Spamalot Collaborator to Helm New Musical The Drowsy Chaperone, Getting NYC Workshop

News   Spamalot Collaborator to Helm New Musical The Drowsy Chaperone, Getting NYC Workshop A New York City reading of The Drowsy Chaperone, anticipating the November American premiere of the musical at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre, will be directed by 2005 Tony Award nominee Casey Nicholaw, Playbill.com has learned.

Casey Nicholaw
Casey Nicholaw

The choreographer of Monty Python's Spamalot will direct and choreograph the summer reading and fall staging of the musical spoof, about a rabid musical theatre maven who retells the story of his favorite musical, 1928's fictive obscurity The Drowsy Chaperone. It plays the Ahmanson Theatre Nov. 8-Dec. 24.

A Broadway run is expected to follow Los Angeles, but no dates or theatre have been announced for its New York commercial future following the (Equity LORT A) run in late 2005. The Ahmanson bills the run as a "pre-Broadway engagement."

The musical by Bob Martin & Don McKellar (book), Greg Morrison (music) and Lisa Lambert (lyrics) was a cult sensation in stagings in Toronto in recent years.

A July reading is planned for Manhattan. Casting is ongoing but star names are expected to be attached to both the reading and the fall production. Rehearsals begin in October.

In a casting notice, the show's author Robert Martin has been mentioned to play Man in Chair, the neurotic, precise musical theatre enthusiast who narrates the show (from an easy chair). Georgia Engel has been mentioned to play Mrs. Tottendale, a "dotty middle-aged (or older) socialite" who plays the ukulele. Other characters include a groom, a bride, gangsters, an aviatrix, a best man, a Latin lover, a chorine, a producer, a butler and more. Wild specialty turns from the characters will punctuate the show.

The musical had a starry presentation in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's Festival of New Musicals in October 2004. Producers and money people have been circling ever since, and Ahmanson's artistic director Michael Ritchie snagged the show for the U.S. premiere.

The Drowsy Chaperonewas created by award winning Second City authors and was the sleeper hit of the 1999 Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival. After selling out at the Fringe, the show quickly transferred to Theatre Passe Muraille (an Off-Broadway-style theatre in Toronto), again to critical and audience acclaim. In 2001, Mirvish Productions realized a full staging at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre where it was lauded by critics.

Fans of the cult hit in Toronto characterized it as a sort of postmodern musical comedy — dry, darkly funny, melodic, daffy and slightly bitchy. In the work's opening monologue, a narrator longs for the days when theatre was fresh, original and exciting — when it was entertaining.

The musical within the musical involves a wedding, one of the staple events of frivolous musical comedies of the 1920s and '30s.

The title character is a middle-aged lady in the mold of Eve Arden — "boozy, sexy, jaded" with a dead pan and wisecracking way about her. Think Eve Arden.

Here's how the Ahmanson Theatre bills the show: "This pre-Broadway musical is a deliciously silly and affectionate love letter to the great musicals of the gay 1920s — a time when the champagne flowed, the caviar chilled and all the world was a guilty pleasure. This fabled 1928 Gable & Stein musical classic tells the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to marry. Her producer sets out to sabotage the nuptials or it's curtains for him. Enter the chaperone, the debonair groom, a dizzy chorine, the Latin lover, and a couple of gangsters. Ruses are played. Hi-jinks occur, and the plot spins completely out of control!"

Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw is nominated for a 2005 Tony Award for Best Choreography for Monty Python's Spamalot. The show marked his Broadway debut as a choreographer. His New York credits include Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way featuring the Rockettes (Radio City Music Hall); Bye Bye Birdie (City Center Encores!); Can-Can (musical staging, City Center Encores!); and Candide (New York Philharmonic, PBS "Great Performances").

Regionally he's choreographed many original musicals including The Road to Hollywood (Goodspeed Musicals), Lucky Duck (Old Globe) and The Prince and the Pauper (5th Avenue Theatre, the Ordway).

For more information, visit www.taperahmanson.com.

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