A Review of "The Drowsy Chaperone" *Will Contain Spoilers*
Ah. Musicals. The thing that makes them nice is that they are really corny at times, and are aware of it. Also, the thing about them is that it gives us tunes to carry along with us when we are blue. And sometimes, there just needs to be something that is a satire of itself. This would be "The Drowsy Chaperone." The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical with a "musical in a comedy" concept. The show opens in the dark with a man's voice talking about theatre. Then, the lights come up and you see him sitting in his house.
He talks more about the concept of how much theatre can be disappointing and exciting (depending on the show.) Then, he offers to play his favorite show from the 1920's, "The Drowsy Chaperone," on his record player. This whole show has this man as a narrative with jokes and such. When he turns on the record player, the overture plays and he talks about overtures in general and how they are "out of style now." Then, the show begins. Everything comes to life before you in his house. With set pieces moved around and such and with the refrigerator as a door that enters the mansion. The "musical" part of the show opens with....oh yeah. Forgot to say: this review will have spoilers. Anyways, the musical part of the show opens with Mrs. Tottendale (a forgetful, enthusiastic, old woman) and her head butler, Underling. The opening number is called, "Fancy Dress." It is basically an introductory number to all of the main characters. Tottendale is the hostess of a wedding going on in her house. All of the characters that are introduced (in order) are Robert Martin (the bride-groom), George (the best man), Victor Feldzieg (a producer of a popular Broadway show), Kitty (a chorus girl who wants to be Feldzieg's leading lady, but never gets a chance), Gangsters 1 and 2 (two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs), Aldolpho (the latin lover, a self-proclaimed King of Romance), Janet Vandegraff (a HUGE star of Feldzieg's show that is leaving to get married), the Drowsy Chaperone (the chaperone of the wedding who is always caught drinking, even though the wedding is prohibition), and Trix the Aviatrix (who appears once and doesn't matter till the end). The number is pretty nice for an opening number. It is easily one of the best numbers in the show because of how it introduces the characters and summarizes each of their personalities with a couple lyrics.
After the number, the man in the chair (who never gets a name, but is the narrative to the story, as I said) pauses the record to give his first narrative without song. Each time the record is paused, everyone on stage needs to freeze. In the exact position they were in before it was paused. Then, after the old man is ready, he puts the needle back on the record player and everyone can move again. After the first narrative is done, the plot is introduced: the bride cannot see the groom before the wedding because it is bad luck. So, the chaperone is supposed to keep them away from each other. Then, on to the B plot. Mr. Feldzieg is all worked up about Janet leaving his show because he would loose his main star. And to top that all off, Kitty is begging Feldzieg to give her a shot at being his leading lady. Then, the gangsters disguised as pastry chefs also threaten Feldzieg. They are gangsters that work for the single largest investor in Feldzieg's Follies and if Feldzieg can't convince Janet to come back to the show, they will kill him (this is implied, however, since they don't actually state it and just make pastry puns that imply murdering). Then, comes the second number, Cold Feets. Cold Feets is a tap number with Robert and George. They both are nervous for the wedding, each for their own particular reason, so they dance their cares away. The number is pretty nice with some very witty lyrics. The tap choreography is a nice touch, seeing how it is about feet. Then, George tells Robert that tap dancing is too dangerous. So, he tells him to go skating, but then realizes he might see Janet. So, he has Robert put on a blindfold. Then, Robert skates off and leaves George to himself. George starts to sing a really short number that is similar to Fancy Dress, called "Wedding Bells #1." It is basically a reprise of Fancy Dress, but only for certain lyrics and has no mention of the dress. While he sings, the house phone rings between lyrics. This is where you get a rant from the man about cell phones going off in a theatre, and how it is super annoying.
Then, we cut to Janet, lounging by the pool. She is getting bombarded by reporters, but doesn't mind. Then, Feldzieg decides to beg Janet to come back to show business, but she refuses, and goes into song. The number she sings is called "Show Off." It's a huge company dance number with many tricks. The premise of the number is Janet stating she doesn't wanna show off, but ironically showing off (it was obviously purposeful irony.) She does tricks like charm a snake, plays rhythms on glasses, does that water ventriloquist trick, etc. The number is one of the biggest show stoppers in this musical and has a large variety of things to look for. It has some very hysterical moments in it. Afterwards, Janet leaves with the reporters following and Feldzieg is alone. He finally sees that begging her will not work, so he searches for another plan. He says, "I need someone gullbile with loose morals. I need a European!" Then, Aldolpho comes into the room. Feldzieg makes up a quick thing to enrage Aldolpho into wanting to seduce the bride to destroy the wedding, so Aldolpho sets off to seduce the bride. The scene where Feldzieg and Aldolpho meet is very funny and very well written. So, he sends Aldolpho off and we cut to Underling and Tottendale scheming to still provide liquor for the wedding, and like I said earlier it is prohibition. The gangsters provided the liquor and Tottendale is using a code word (ice water) to ask for vodka. Underling and Tottendale agree to do this and Tottendale asks for ice water. Then, as you expect, Underling gives her vodka, thinking that is what she wants. Tottendale spits it out, saying, "THAT WAS PURE VODKA, YOU POOP!" and it happens many, many times before the man in the chair decides to fast forward through that scene. After he's done, he pauses the record and gets up and mops the floor, explaining that that scene was only in there to leave time for the set change, while having a funny gag about comparing musicals to pornography. Then, the scene shifts to the Bridal Suite where the chaperone and Janet are talking.
Janet isn't sure if Robert likes her. So, she asks the chaperone for advice. So, the chaperone starts singing a number called, "As We Stumble Along." It is basically a rousing anthem about alcoholism. The number has very well construct and can also be interpreted as being about the war, but basically, the show comes right out and says it's about alcoholism (thanks to the man in the chair.) Then, the chaperone pretends to be drowsy from the liquor so that Janet can go out into the garden and see if Robert loves her. After Janet exits, the chaperone starts wondering when "love will come crashing through her door." Then, Aldolpho walks in. Aldolpho thinks that the chaperone is the bride, leading to a misunderstanding. Aldolpho is just about to make love to her, when she calls him "Aldollface." Aldolpho thinks this is an outrage and sings an entire song about how to remember his name called "I Am Aldolpho." "I am Aldolpho" is a really fun number. It is a tango number with castanets, trumpets, bull fight anthems, etc. It is one of the most out of place numbers, but is one of the best for the way it shows its cheese. It is meant to be cheesy and its not trying to hide it. It gives many chances for jokes that some I did not see in the Broadway recording, but some high schools and theatre companies do take advantage of them. After the number, Aldolpho is poised over the bride (implying that he will make love to her.) Then, the scenery shifts to Tottendale's garden, where Robert is rollerskating blindfolded.
He comes across Janet, but cannot see her because of the blindfold. Therefore, he doesn't know it's her because she pulls a fake french accent to figure out what he thinks of her. He bursts into song with a duet called "Accident Waiting to Happen." The number is basically them telling the story of how Robert and Janet met. It is a nice number to show out the personality of the cast. It's not as good as some other numbers, but is still pretty nice and the choreography possibilities are almost endless, seeing how Robert is still on roller skates in this scene. At the end of the number, in a daze, Robert and Janet kiss. Then, realizing what Robert had done, Janet ran off in a rage. Then, the next scene opens with Kitty presenting her failing mind-reading act to Feldzieg. Then, the gangsters show up and try to kill Feldzieg because the wedding was going according to schedule.
They introduce the "Toledo Surprise" to him. They read off the so-called recipe (chop the nuts, pound the dough, bake it up nice and slow), but then, Feldzieg's fast thinking pulls him out of it, telling the gangsters to open their hands, shake them, and give him the recipe one more time (in song.) That's when "Toledo Surprise" comes in. "Toledo Surprise" is easily the best number in the musical. It starts with the gangsters getting their showmanship on and dancing and singing, but then Kitty walks in, and gets mad that they get an act and not her, so Feldzieg pulls another fast one. He tells her that they are her back up dancers. So, she joins in the song as well, singing a solo. Then, the music suddenly stops as Aldolpho rushes in and gives the news that he seduced "the bride." Since he actually seduced the chaperone, though, that changes things, or so they think. Then, Janet rushes in with Robert close behind, saying the wedding was called off because he kissed a "French girl" (which was technically janet, as I said before.) Then, Feldzieg is so happy that he gets his own little solo in the number. This is Feldzieg's only true solo. Then, Tottendale joins in the song and also gets a solo. Then, the chorus joins in. And, near the end of the song, the "record" skips. So, everyone reacts as if they would sing, then go back to the beginning of the phrase again, and repeat many times, till the man in the chair stomped on the floor to stop the skipping. This number has some of the best ideas involved. It also has the best example of reminders that they are being played from the record player and fueled by it. After the number, there is a finale to act one, titled "Act 1 Finale," which is basically a really quick reprise of "Wedding Bells #1," but with different lyrics. Then, the curtain falls, but you don't get an intermission! This isn't a complaint. I love the boldness that they had to do this. Instead of an intermission, the man in the chair takes out the act 1 record, and says you would have an intermission if you were in the theatre at the moments. He explains how he hates intermissions and that they are annoying. Then, he boldly says that he has to pee and runs backstage while he puts on act II for you, but there is a twist to that. The man puts in the wrong record, and instead comes on a parody of "The King and I," but is a little racist. It is a short number called "Message From a Nightingale." It is hysterical. They do not show the entire song, though. They just show a part of it, then the man comes running out explaining about it. There is an extended version on the cast recording, though. The number is good for what it is and is another good example on how they are on a record player. Then, the "curtain opens again" with a number that the man tells you to totally ignore the lyrics. It is called, "Bride's Lament."
It is a number that has a metaphor that is totally ridiculous and makes you laugh. I'm not going to go into very much detail because it is based off of something that Janet said in the beginning that I didn't mention, so I will just say it is a good song with many excellent moments. After that number, Tottendale and Underling come out onstage and start talking about how the wedding is off. Tottendale says to Underling, "Never listen to a bride on her wedding day!" Then, Tottendale starts singing a number called, "Love is Always Lovely in the End." This number is a little weak, but holds up on the fact that it helps the story. The number has a bunch of jokes in it that are pretty funny, but also shows that Tottendale has a crush on Underling and Underling loves her too. After that number, the man in the chair pauses for a second to say how that number "pisses him off." He gets mad over it because he doesn't believe love is always lovely in the end. This narrative helps build his character. It shows out his opinions and how they feel. After that, the scene shifts to the bridal suite again.
Janet comes into the room and talks to the chaperone and finds out that the chaperone and Aldolpho are getting married. Then, Underling and Tottendale come out and declare they are getting married too. George emerges irritated with this whole thing, and how everyone is getting married but the bride and groom. Then, Robert comes in and puts on his charm and attempts to have her marry him, still. Then, Feldzieg, Kitty and the gangsters come out. Feldzieg tries to convince Janet not to get married once again. Janet doesn't know what to do, however, and turns to the chaperone. She asks for the Chaperone's advice. When Janet takes the "unclear" advice and marries Robert, the gangsters threaten to kill Feldzieg again with more pastry puns (like, "Now you're in truffle!"). Then he has more quick thinking: he says Kitty is his new leading lady with her mind reading act. He tells Kitty to read his mind. She attempts it. She gets out of that that Feldzieg asked her to marry him. Obviously, it is implied that Feldzieg does not wish to marry her and is trapped She says yes, and Feldzieg goes along with it because he doesn't want to get killed. Then, George sends all of the girls out to get their dresses on, while there is a number called "George's Triumph." It is a number where the men celebrate that George is everyone's best man. Then, the women come out near the end of the number and it turns out: George forgot the minister! So, chaos ensues while a plane comes down! Then, sure enough, Trix comes down and explains that she needed to fix her engine. Then, everyone thinks about how a captain of a ship can wed people, and a pilot is like a captain and a plane is like an air ship. That somewhat makes sense. I'm not sure whether to go along with it because it is so utterly stupid or actually incredibly intelligent. So, Trix weds them on the plane. They start singing a number called "I Do, I Do in the Sky. This is the least strong company number. The lyrics are a little witty and all, but compared to all of the others, it doesn't have as much charm. But, when they are about to sing the last note of their song, the lights go out, everything gets quiet. The power went out in the man's house. Right before the last note of the song. Then, there is a knock on the door from the superintendent. The man answers it, you see two flashlights go across the stage, then the superintendent fixes the power. When the power comes back on, that last note comes in right on cue. This is all in synch with everything. Then, the superintendent has a short conversation about musicals and the man kicks him out of his house and has a somber moment. He was sad that the moment was ruined. He explained on how much he loves the show and goes on about how his dad left him and such and that the show may have its flaws, but it does what a musical is supposed to do: it takes you to another world and gives you a little tune to carry in your head for when you're feeling blue. Then, he starts singing a reprise of "As we stumble along" without any background music. Then, music blends with it and everyone comes on the stage and interacts and sings along with the man. Then, he gets on Trix's plane and flies up into the curtains, saying goodbye. That is where the show ends. The last number is one of my favorites because of how somber and quiet it is and how inspirational it is.
Does the show ACTUALLY have some flaws? Yes. But, I can oversee them to see the big picture because I'm a musical fan. I love musicals more than anything for the reason that the man mentioned. Is his show for everyone? No. But, it is a very interesting and new idea. It might be for people that don't really prefer musicals, too, because of the satire part of it. My favorite number is Toledo surprise because of how everyone tunes in, but has such a campy style to it. My least favorite number is...really difficult to decide. I would have to say "I Do, I Do in the Sky. Mostly because "I Do" is not as strong. It has good intentions and is not bad. Just not as good as some others. I give this musical a 9 out of 10. I know it has helped me carry along tunes while I was feeling blue. Have you ever seen the show? Do you disagree with some of my decisions? Go ahead and comment (if you took the time to read this whole thing) and start a discussion!
Last edited by theuprightbass; 29-06-2015 at 01:55.
Reason: I needed paragraph breaks in here. It makes it readable
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