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SRT’s Drowsy Chaperone: A Comedic Musical Delight

Sierra Rep’s Laurie and Lee Strawn are among the cast of The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Brooke Battle

Don’t let the title mislead you; nothing is drowsy about this latest Sierra Rep production and the chaperone referred to in the title is a tipsy, conniving scene stealer!

Playing through June 9 at Sierra Rep’s East Sonora Theatre, The Drowsy Chaperone is a multi-Tony award winning Broadway musical-within-a-comedy that made its big debut back in 2006.

Although there has not been much talk in recent years about a potential move adaption in the works, names that have been bandied about for one within the past decade have included actor Geoffrey Rush, who had appeared in one of the onstage productions; also, notable movie and live theatre performers Hugh Jackman, Barbra Streisand and Anne Hathaway.The play itself is set up in a very interesting way: narrated by a neurotic and depressed musical theater fan referred to as Man in Chair (SRT Executive Director Scott Viets), who alone in his drab apartment carries on a one-way conversation with the audience about his love for a particularly favorite 1928 Broadway musical cast recording on vinyl.

As he begins to talk about it, he places it on his turntable and the recording begins to play, causing the musical to come to life behind him in the apartment after which he begins to comment on all the actions as they happen and share related tidbits about his life.

The campy plot of the musical involves a rich dowager wedding hostess, her unflappable British butler, a young stage ingenue and her wealthy fiancé who arrive at a mansion with her self-interested manager/director and supposed chaperone in tow. The latter is supposed to be helping keep the couple from seeing too much of each other until their wedding ceremony but the “chaperone,” a former stage star who happens to be a big drinker, is hatching some ideas of her own.

Added to the mix are a harried best man, a grifting Don Juan character named Aldolpho, a pair of gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, a ditzy showgirl waiting in the wings to land her own stage opportunity, and an aviatrix whose timely arrival enables the musical’s ridiculously over-the-top happy ending. All the characters’ madcap interactions, interspersed with numerous musical numbers, are quite hilarious.

The Drowsy Chaperone’s music and lyrics are by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison with the book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar.

Sierra Rep’s Scott Viets is Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone Photo by Brooke Battle

Martin, who originated the Man in Chair role, played the part in numerous subsequent productions. The role of the dowager, Mrs. Tottendale has been played on Broadway by notable actors Georgia Engel (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Hot In Cleveland”), Jo Anne Worley (“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”) and Cindy Williams (“Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley”).

The first character to emerge on stage behind Man in Chair is Mrs. Tottendale (SRT regular Laurie Strawn) and her butler, who is referred to only as Underling (Laurie’s real-life husband Lee Strawn). The audience is subsequently introduced to the groom, oil-company-heir Robert Martin (the winsome Collins Rush in his SRT debut); his bride-to-be, Broadway starlet Janet Van de Graaff (SRT’s sensational artistic associate Camryn Elias); best man George (SRT regular Steven Michael Stone); Janet’s “drowsy” (already half-drunk) chaperone (SRT mainstay actor and hair and makeup designer Brenda O’Brien) and manager Mr. Feldzeig (SRT ironman character actor Ty Smith).

Among comedic foils who make their way into the mix are Kitty (SRT cohort and choreographer Sarah Schori), a wannabe leading lady showgirl; two gangsters posing as pastry chefs (regional/national actors and SRT cohorts Alex Figueroa and Gabriel Rodrigues); and Aldolpho (Lee, in a zany-fun, wackily over-the-top role).

There’s also aviatrix Trix (the impressive Hannah-Kathryn Wall, whose recent debut with SRT was in Little Shop of Horrors) and Man in Chair’s building superintendent (SRT cohort Cameron Chang), obliged at one point to interrupt Man’s musical revelries.

Directed and choreographed by Russell Garrett with scenic design by Dana Moran Williams, the production is full of laughs and fun to watch and hear. Costumes are by Jeane Reith; lighting by Christopher Van Tuyl; sound by Mateo DeAngelo and Tatiana Covington-Parra;  properties design by Matthew Rose; musical direction by Sean Paxton; and stage management by Maggie Braun, Ashley Castillo and Michael Laun.

Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., with matinees beginning at noon on Wednesdays and at 2 p.m. on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. For more details, visit