Toronto Musical Favorite Drowsy Chaperone Hopes for a Wider Future; Starry Cast Will Sing for NAMT Crowd

News   Toronto Musical Favorite Drowsy Chaperone Hopes for a Wider Future; Starry Cast Will Sing for NAMT Crowd The Drowsy Chaperone, a unique original musical that had audiences howling in its Toronto appearances, resurfaces in New York City for a starry industry presentation in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's 16th Annual Festival of New Musicals.

Set to appear in the Oct. 3-4 readings of the show by Bob Martin, Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison are Christine Ebersole (42nd Street) in the title role, Georgia Engel ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show"), Richard Kind ("Spin City," Sly Fox), Christopher Sieber (Chicago, "It's All Relative"), Lea DeLaria (The Rocky Horror Show, On the Town), Beth Beyer, Christianne Tisdale, Danny Burstein (Mrs. Farnsworth), Robert DuSold (Paper Mill's Guys and Dolls), Patrick Garner, Paul Kandel, Bob Martin and Reno Roop.

Musicals selected for presentation before hundreds of NAMT members in its annual New York convention are seen in abbreviated versions that last about 45 minutes, giving prospective producers a taste of the new works.

Fans of the cult hit Drowsy Chaperone 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 Drowsy Chaperone is billed as "Urinetown meets Wonderful Town...a hilarious and affectionate send-up of the great Broadway musicals of the 1920s, written by award-winning Second City authors."

The show was the sleeper hit of the 1999 Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival. After a sold-out run at the Fringe, the show quickly transferred to Theatre Passe Muraille (an Off-Broadway style venue in Toronto) where it was met again with audience and critical acclaim. In 2001, Mirvish Productions realized a full staging at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre, where it was lauded by critics and cheered by audiences hungry for a daffy, self-referential take on the musical comedy form. In 2003, producers Roy Miller and Paul Mack acquired the rights to the show and are taking it to NAMT as a first step toward a hoped-for wider North American future.

Producer pals Miller and Mack saw the show in Toronto after reading the rave reviews. Miller told Playbill On-Line, "I fell in love with it, I fell out of my chair. This was before Urinetown and Avenue Q came along. This is sort of in the same genre."

Miller said his hope is to partner with one or two regional theatres for tryouts and then bring the musical to Broadway.

According to production notes, "The curtain rises on Man In Chair [to be played in the NAMT reading by Canadian actor and co-writer Bob Martin, who starred in Toronto] a musical theatre fanatic eager to share his favorite Broadway musical with the audience � Gable and Stein's 1928 classic, The Drowsy Chaperone. As he places the rare cast recording on his hi-fi, the show of course comes to life on stage, telling the inconsequential little tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who has decided to leave show business to wed. Her producer, desperate to save his career and re-pay gangster investors, sets out to sabotage the nuptials. Ruses are played. Hi-jinks occur. And just before the plot spins completely out of control, everyone 'zeppelins' down to Rio for a happy ending. Throughout the show, Man In Chair stops to praise or mock certain scenes and to provide lurid Hollywood Babylon-style details about the performers' sad real lives. With sinister enthusiasm, he'll interrupt a scene to expound gossip, replay a verse to enjoy a lyric, join in a number to get attention. He's the ultimate Everyfan and Drowsy is his guilty pleasure."

The private presentations of The Drowsy Chaperone will take place Oct. 3 at 7:45 PM and Oct. 4 at 11:15 AM at the new Dodger Stages, 340 W. 50th St., New York.

Selected from hundreds of submissions, the show will be joined by seven other new musicals at the NAMT Festival including Flight of the Lawnchair Man and Camille Claudel, Frank Wildhorn's new musical, starring Linda Eder.

For additional information about NAMT, visit www.namt.net.

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Co-librettist Bob Martin wrote and performed in four revues at the Toronto Second City, directed three, and was recently appointed its artistic director.

Co-librettist Don McKellar began his career by co founding Toronto's The Augusta Company, for whom he co-created six critically acclaimed experimental plays. Since then Don has primarily been known for his screenplays. With director Francois Girard he co-wrote the award-winning "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" and "The Red Violin."

Composer Greg Morrison wrote music with Karen Hines for her Pochsy's Lips; Oh, Baby; Citizen Pochsy and Hello...hello. He was composer/musical director for Mump and Smoot's Something Else, and Mump and Smoot In Flux, and composer/book writer of The Age of Dorian, adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

Lyricist Lisa Lambert wrote the lyrics and performed the title role in The Drowsy Chaperone, "which started as a stag-party show in 1998, and landed at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre in 2001." Her songs have been featured in stage musicals (Honest Ed: The Bargain Musical, Ouch My Toe, Mirth), on screen ("Pippi Longstocking"), in sketch comedy and on TV.

Producer Roy Miller produced the 2002 Broadway revival of I'm Not Rappaport starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Miller also produces at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. He co-produced the tours of A Chorus Line (2002 National Broadway Theatre Award Nomination) and Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Producer Paul Mack, an Oregon native, is the founder and president of Paul J. Mack & Associates Inc., a full-service capital campaign management-consulting firm based in Burlington, Ontario. Since 1995, the firm has raised over $50 million, and has provided fund raising and board development services to over 60 not-for-profit organizations in the USA and Canada. From 1991 to 1994, Mack was Director of Development at The National Ballet of Canada. Mack holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Oregon, where he earned a Phi Beta Kappa key, and also studied at the University of San Francisco Law School.

Mack also worked for 13 years as an actor, singer and dancer, performing in musicals on Broadway, Off Broadway, across the U.S and abroad. Most notably, he appeared in the original New York production of Little Shop of Horrors, the first national tour of Cats, and in the The American Dance�Machine, from 1979 to 1985.

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