The first few minutes of “The Drowsy Chaperone” occur in complete darkness, while an anxious but companionable voice drifts from the stage.
“I hate theater,” the disembodied voice says. “Well, it’s so disappointing, isn’t it?” This voice, which belongs to a character called “Man in Chair,” offers up the prayer he says he always mutters before a show, requesting that it be short, free of actors who roam the audience and blessed with “a story and a few good songs that will take me away.”
So begins “The Drowsy Chaperone,” opening at the Adobe Theater on Dec. 1.
The play is an ode to those old 1920s musicals that were light on plot and heavy on comedy, with rousing music, catchy rhythms and loads of up-tempo Jazz Age dances.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” contains a contemporary framework: an iconic character – a pure musical theater queen whose life revolves around Broadway musicals. The nerdy “Man in Chair” narrates and comments on the action as he entices us to escape the blues of our lives with him as he drops the needle on the LP of his favorite show “The Drowsy Chaperone.” His dreary apartment explodes into a colorful set as the show comes to life.
With music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, the show originated in Toronto in 1998, winning five Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards on Broadway in 2006.
“They did it at the Adobe 10 years ago,” co-director Cy Hoffman said. “It’s very funny; the music is great; there are 13 actors who sing. There are a lot of solos, but everybody has one. It gives every actor a chance to shine.”
A parody of 1920s American musical comedy, the play takes place during Prohibition.
Imagine, the “Man in Chair” continues, a time when audiences eagerly awaited the latest from Cole Porter and the Gershwins. “Now,” the Man says, “it’s, ‘Please, Elton John, must we continue this charade?’ ” On stage, people are congregating at the house of a flaky matriarch for a wedding between an oil tycoon and a star in “Follies.”
The star plans to give up her career for married life.
Determined to keep his cash cow, the investor hires two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs to stop the wedding. Chaos and bad puns ensue.
The cast includes returning actors Ron Bronitsky (“the Narrator”), Tim McAlpine (“Robert”), Erin Moody (“Chaperone”), Lisette Mowery (“Janet”) and Rick Hassi (“Superintendent”). Joining them are Jane Hoffman (the co-director), Dianna Hughes, Jack Litherland, Lou Mazzullo, Stevie Nichols, Kiersten Nord, Russ Sype and Bill Williams. Live music will be played by Raul Manjarrez (piano) and Sean Umstead (percussion).