A full-on musical comedy with dream sequences, mistaken identities and classic spit-takes will keep everyone wide awake at The Drowsy Chaperone.
It opened this week at the Cultural Centre as the first production of the year from the Chilliwack Players’ Guild.
The story and music promise to be exceptional, with the show having earned a Tony award for Best Book and Best Score.
The narration for the piece comes from the modern-day perspective of a musical theatre fanatic, known simply as ‘Man in Chair.’ To chase away the blues, he puts on a record from the 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone, and the characters come to life within the four walls of his apartment.
There’s the unflappable English butler, an absent-minded elder, a ditzy chorus girl, a harried best man, and a tipsy chaperone played in the show-within-a-show by a blowzy Grande Dame of the stage, specializing in rousing anthems who is not above upstaging the occasional co-star.
Last week, we covered the production from the point of view of the Players’ Guild, and this week we interview Drowsy composer Lisa Lambert.
Produced with permission of Music Theatre International, the book was written by Bob Martin and Doug McKellar, with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
The Chilliwack Progress caught up with the composer, Lisa Lambert, to ask a few key questions about her role in adding to the magic that has become Drowsy Chaperone.
She explained it started out as a spoof, or homage to musicals, and grew exponentially from there. It took the Fringe Festival by storm in Toronto, and then debuted in 1998 at The Rivoli in Toronto. It later opened on Broadway on in the spring of 2006.
Drowsy Chaperone, Tickets $22.50/$25. April 6-9 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m., and April 13-16 at 8 p.m., main theatre Chilliwack Cultural Centre, 604-391-SHOW (7469).
Here’s how the rest of the mini Q&A went between The Progress and Lambert:
So what attracted you to this project in the first place?
Back in 1998 I was “best man” at my friends’ Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff’s wedding. I decided that for their stag/doe party I’d organize a show. Part of that show was the first performance of The Drowsy Chaperone, a pastiche musical comedy a group of us had been discussing for years. I corralled all our performer buddies and we made it happen. Then we took the show to the Toronto Fringe and it kept growing from there.
How would you describe the era of the music the audience will hear. Is it big band? Or jazz age?
I would say a mix of jazz age and Tin Pan Alley.
What was your inspiration?
Definitely many of the film musicals and comedies of the early 1930s — the Marx Brothers, Fred (Astaire) & Ginger (Rogers), the Maurice Chevalier/Jeanette MacDonald movies — they all influenced the creation of Drowsy. And at a very young age I became obsessed with my mother’s collection of Broadway cast recordings, Guys & Dolls, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story. They all made a huge impression.
Was the story-within-a-story structure a factor in how you approached the music ?
Absolutely! We knew we had Man in Chair to comment on the songs so we were free to be as absurd as we wanted. Man in Chair could put everything into context.