Their casting was previously reported by Playbill.com, as was the casting of Robert Martin, the show's co-author, who is expected to play the quirky musical theatre maven who narrates the show. The musical was an audience sensation in previous formative productions in Toronto.
The second production of the Ahmanson's 2005-06 season at the Los Angeles Music Center, the new musical opens in its U.S. premiere Nov. 18 and continues through Dec. 24. Previews begin Nov. 10.
Broadway producers Kevin McCollum, Roy Miller and Bob Boyett are in the wings, holding the commercial option on the show.
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (Tony nominee for his choreography of Spamalot), with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music by Greg Morrison and lyrics by Lisa Lambert, The Drowsy Chaperone is "a love letter to the extravagant musicals of the 1920s offering the audience the chance to see one of those 'lost' musicals through the eyes of one super-fan with an almost omniscient knowledge of the play and players."
Foster, a Tony winner for Best Actress in a Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and nommed for Little Women, will play the bride, Janet, in the new show, a spoof of 1920s musicals and their practitioners. Engel, widely known as Georgette in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (for which she was Emmy-nominated) and as Pat MacDougall in "Everybody Loves Raymond," will play a wealthy dowager named Mrs. Tottendale (who apparently plays the ukulele).
Co-author Martin is expected to play Man in Chair, the musical comedy maven and narrator who introduces us to the plot and backstage tales of his favorite (fictive) musical, 1928's The Drowsy Chaperone.
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.
Other characters in the show include a groom, 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 Ahmanson has billed the show as a "pre-Broadway engagement." Rehearsals begin in October.
The Drowsy Chaperone was 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.
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 was 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).
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.
For more information, visit www.taperahmanson.com.
Founded in 1967, Center Theatre Group is Los Angeles' "leading not-for-profit theatre company and one of the nation's preeminent arts and cultural organizations." Under the leadership of artistic director Michael Ritchie, CTG offers audiences the greatest range of theatrical entertainment available from any one theatre company. CTG presents productions year-round at the 745-seat Mark Taper Forum and the 1,600-2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center of Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.