The show playing Toronto's Elgin Theatre Sept. 19-Oct. 14 began as a scrappy wedding gift written and performed for actor-writer Bob Martin. His pals in the Toronto theatre community created a daffy twenties spoof to toast his new marriage to Janet Van De Graaff. It was so crafty that Martin and Co. thought the lark had the potential to be expanded.
Toronto fringe and commercial stagings of The Drowsy Chaperone caught the eyes and ears of producers, who matched an American creative team (including director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw) to the Canadian writers — librettists Martin and Don McKellar and songwriters Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
The team refined the warm-hearted, daffy show for Broadway, where it won five 2006 Tonys, including Best Book and Best Score.
The Drowsy Chaperone concerns a reclusive, ardent musical theatre fan named Man in Chair, who introduces us to his fave show, a 1928 treat called The Drowsy Chaperone. When he plays the scratchy cast album, the musical comes to life around him in his shabby studio apartment.
Martin (who won a Best Book Tony with McKellar and was Tony-nommed as Best Actor) stars in the tour launch, in his hometown. He also played Man in Chair in London in the summer. He'll be replaced once the tour moves on. Tony nominee Nancy Opel (Urinetown, Fiddler on the Roof) plays the title role, and Georgia Engel ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") re-creates her Broadway role of the absent-minded Mrs. Tottendale. The tour cast also features Cliff Bemis (Mr. Feldzieg), Broadway Drowsy swing Andrea Chamberlain (as Janet Van De Graaff), former Zazu of The Lion King Robert Dorfman (as Underling), Fran Jaye (as Trix), Irving Berlin's White Christmas veteran Mark Ledbetter (as Robert Martin), Marla Mindelle (as Kitty), Helen Hayes Award nominee James Moye (as Aldolpho), twin brothers Paul Riopelle (as Gangster #1) and Peter Riopelle (as Gangster #2) and Richard Vida (as George).
Rounding out the cast are Kevin Crewell, Taylor Farrell, Tiffany Haas, Alicia Irving, James Patterson, Chuck Rea, Mason Roberts and Jennifer Swiderski.
When the show moves on to Cleveland, Canadian actor Jonathan Crombie (of TV's "Anne of Green Gables") will play Man in Chair. He's currently in the Broadway run.
After leaving Toronto, The Drowsy Chaperone will travel to more than 30 cities across the United States including Cleveland, St. Louis, Charlotte, Schenectady, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Atlanta, Naples, Orlando, Raleigh, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Paul, Boston, Providence, Greenville, Houston, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others.
Casey Nicholaw (Spamalot) directs and choreographs.
The show also won Tonys for costume design (Gregg Barnes) and scenic design (David Gallo). Beth Leavel snagged the Tony for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
"Man in Chair's love of The Drowsy Chaperone speaks to anyone who has ever been transported by the theatre," according to the producers.
For more information about the current Broadway and national touring productions, visit www.drowsychaperone.com.
The Toronto run of Drowsy is part of the inaugural season of Broadway and touring shows presented by Dancap Productions. The 2007-08 Dancap season there will also include …Spelling Bee, Three Mo' Divas, Avenue Q, My Fair Lady and Jersey Boys. Visit www.dancaptickets.com for more information.