A fizzy blend of parody and homage, Hale Centre Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone offers enough tap dancing, spangly flapper dresses and dramatic scene changes to please those who --- simply love a good dance number, but it’s the show’s witty, tongue-in-cheek take on Jazz-era musicals that makes it appealing to those who might yawn their way through the source material.
The musical is presented by the Man in the Chair (played by Greg Barnett), who introduces the audience to the “forgotten classic” The Drowsy Chaperone, the cast recording of which he puts on his record player whenever he’s feeling a little blue. The frame narrative method of telling a story is nothing new, and in most cases either the frame or the story being told ends up on the back burner while the more interesting of the two is rightfully given the attention. Here, though, both parts work seamlessly together, with the Man in the Chair adding humor—stopping the record to explain that the next scene is ridiculous; urging the audience to ignore the nonsensical lyrics—and unexpected heart to the show. Just try to hold back the lump in your throat during the penultimate scene, when the unnamed narrator, a divorced, anxiety-ridden lover of musical theater, reveals to the audience why this musical—and theater in general—means so much to him.
Hale Centre Theatre’s theater-in-the-round setup—which requires creative entrances and exits during any performance—works perfectly with the show’s zany tone and satire of theater tropes. “I don’t wanna encore no more/ Keep ’em shoutin’ for more no more/ Disappear through the floor no more” leading lady Janet Van de Graaff (Debra Weed) belts out as she—what else?—ascends back up through the floor for her encore to “Show Off,” the musical’s stand-out number.
Though the music is catchy, the songs themselves, out of context, don’t come close to capturing the show’s appeal. The dialogue, stock characters (over-the-top ethnic stereotypes, gangsters posing as pastry chefs who provide more puns than an episode of Sex and the City), set pieces and sight gags are integral to The Drowsy Chaperone’s abundant charm. Unless your imagination is on par with that of the Man in the Chair’s, you should experience this musical live.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
Through Nov. 27
Hale Centre Theatre
3333 S. Decker Lake Drive
West Valley City