"I knew so many people in the cast, people I've worked with over the years as a performer," said Nicholaw, who was nominated for Best Choreography in 2005 for Spamalot . "I really felt taken care of. Everyone is such a pro. The average age of the cast is 42, so it's just a bunch of pros. It was like we were playing for six weeks before we opened in L.A."
The Drowsy Chaperone places the audience in the shabby living room of a musical theatre nut as he plays (and offers commentary on) the recording of his favorite, obscure 1920s musical—also called The Drowsy Chaperone.
Asked how he turned his 21st-century cast into a credible crew of 1920s performers, Nicholaw said, "We did a lot research. And since everything came out of vaudeville back then, we made sure everyone knew what their vaudeville act was. The first two weeks of rehearsal, we came in and did exercises for the actor people that they're playing. So Beth Leavel would do exercises as [fictional actress] Beatrice Stockwell, who's playing the Drowsy Chaperone [in the show], as opposed to just being the Drowsy Chaperone."
About that title. In the show, actor Bob Martin, who plays the narrating theatre geek, pronounces it The Drowsy Chaper-OWN, with an accent on the last syllable, as opposed to more familiar pronunciation of "CHAP-erone." Did Nicholaw know that, since then, some journalists covering the theatre have adopted Martin's peculiar pronunciation?
"Oh, my God," he responded, wide-eyed. "I didn't even think about that. You know, we don't call it Chaper-OWN. We call it CHAP-erone. It's only Martin's character. He does a lot of those crazy things. 'I had a craving for The Music MAN.' It's just his affectation." Nicholaw laughed. "I love that" reporters mispronounce it, he chuckled. "Let them! It will make me laugh!"