Will Sutton Foster Be a Thoroughly Modern Bride in The Drowsy Chaperone?

News   Will Sutton Foster Be a Thoroughly Modern Bride in The Drowsy Chaperone? Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster is in discussions to star in the American premiere of the new musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone for the Ahmanson Theatre, Playbill.com has learned.

Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Foster, who won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her alternately daffy, plaintive and heartfelt work as Thoroughly Modern Millie, would again be able to show off her comic side: The Drowsy Chaperone is a fractured musical spoof of 1920s musicals.

Foster, recently a Tony nominee for Little Women, would play Janet, the bride, in the show-within-a-show by Bob Martin & Don McKellar (book), Greg Morrison (music) and Lisa Lambert (lyrics).

Casey Nicholaw (Spamalot) will direct and choreograph the musical for the pre-Broadway Ahmanson run in Los Angeles Nov. 8-Dec. 24. A New York City reading/workshop is planned for July. Casting for other parts is ongoing, although author Robert Martin will 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.

Georgia Engel has also been cast as Mrs. Tottendale, a "dotty middle-aged (or older) socialite" who plays the ukulele, according to a casting notice. No official casting announcement has been made to the press.

Other characters in the show 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. 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) Ahmanson run in late 2005. The Ahmanson bills it a "pre-Broadway engagement."

The musical was a cult sensation in stagings in Toronto in recent years. 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.

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 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.