Indianapolis Civic Theatre, Booth Tarkington Theater, through September 24.
The Drowsy Chaperone sparked my flame for older musicals. One hermetic man has a rousing evening alone as he loses himself in an old (fictitious) favorite musical.
Ridiculous by nature, the music, lyrics and book of this show are joyfully aware of themselves. Paul Hansen is delightful as the "Man in Chair," whose reclusive nature melts away with each zany musical number. He is hilarious in his commentary on the show-within-the-show and on the actors who people this world.
Each member of the cast dives head first into their ridiculous stock characters. Husband and wife pair, Nathalie Cruz and Ian Cruz, steal the show as the drunkenly drowsy chaperone and stereotypical Latin lover, respectively.
The stunningly large set showcases the amenities of the new Booth Tarkington Theatre and the lighting talents of designer Ryan Koharchik. Every scene change is a glorious surprise, as a shabby apartment becomes the setting for a stereotypical '20s era musical.
However, staging issues periodically create blind spots for certain seats, resulting in the loss of a few gags for viewers seated in the wrong place. And director Ron Morgan fails to push for the racy moments that sometimes make old musicals so surprising. Both examples of missed moments diluted this contemporary interpretation of the golden age of Broadway. In the end, the show reminds Civic audiences why their mission to bring musical theater to Hoosiers can be successful: Everyone needs a little escapism now and then.