A smart new Beef & Boards production of the Tony and Drama Desk-winning The Drowsy Chaperone, though May 10, balances vaudeville shtick with big, emotionally charged moments.
“It does something a musical is supposed to do,” says one of the production's main characters, The Man in the Chair, a nebbish [look it up] who’s having a blue day. “It’s something to take you from the real world," a respite from “nothing work[ing] out.” Yet in summing up, truisms gleaned from this tour de farce [yes, farce] give us impetus to stumble along toward something worthwhile.
The vinyl record The Man in the Chair spins to perk himself up transforms his shabby apartment into a glitzy showbiz parody of 1920s American musical comedy, with tunes you can hum when you leave and lyrics you can understand and bond with.
Thank you to musical director Kristy Templet for instilling crisp diction in her cast, which "gets" caricature and kitsch. With a sure touch of more is never too much, director/choreographer Ron Morgan leads the splendid cast of eighteen through a whirlwind of production numbers with top-notch dancing, singing and acting.
I gave up counting costume changes — every one a standout by designer Kurt Alger — and the number of set changes designer Michael Layton devised as sleight of hand manipulations, all abetted by Ryan Koharchik’s lighting. Excellent sound design is by Daniel Hesselbrock. The Orchestra of five sounds much larger. And keeping pace with non-stop pranks and pratfalls is stage manager Elizabeth Stark Payne.
David Schmittou as The Man in the Chair delivers wry humor with perfect comedic timing as he intermittently stops action to comment on the story, actors, music, acting. Up to the minute with current event cracks, he breaks down the fourth wall, speaking directly to us, egging us on to participate and examine our own quirks and quibbles.
Providing dimensional zing to their stock characters are B&B newcomers Laura Douciere as the conflicted bride, particularly dazzling in “Show Off"; Victoria Weinberg as the ultimate diva aka Drowsy Chaperone; Timothy Ford as the nervous groom hoofing like an old-timer along with Ian Frazier as best man George, Alan M-L Wager as the self-proclaimed lothario Adolpho, and Ethan Litt in the cameo Superintendent role.
Providing split-second comedic routines are three duos including: Suzanne Stark and John Vessels, Douglas E. Stark and Deb Wims, Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood. The savior-star turn belongs to the inimitable Kendra Lynn Lucas.