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Broadway Series South’s latest musical extravaganza, The Drowsy Chaperone, is a brilliant spoof of old-fashioned Broadway musical romances from the Roaring Twenties. Originally created as a wedding present for Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, this ingenious, witty, and altogether wonderful one-act musical runs about an hour and 40 minutes and features music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and a book by Martin and Don McKellar.
Dynamically directed and cleverly choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who also staged the show’s award-winning 2006 Broadway debut, The Drowsy Chaperone stars Nancy Opel as the title character; Jonathan Crombie as Man in Chair; Mark Ledbetter as heir to an oil fortune Robert Martin; Andrea Chamberlain as Broadway star Janet Van De Graaff; Cliff Bemis as cigar-chomping Broadway producer and “Feldzieg’s Follies” impresario Victor Feldzieg; and James Moye as Aldolpho, the Latin Lothario and self-proclaimed “King of Romance” whom Feldzieg hires to seduce Janet and sabotage the plans for her impending marriage to Robert Martin.
Nancy Opel is a hoot as she staggers in and out of scenes as the perpetually tipsy and always in the mood for love Drowsy Chaperone; and Jonathan Crombie is very, very funny as Man in Chair, an effete and wryly witty aficionado of Broadway shows who serves as the show’s narrator, gleefully guiding the audience through the improbable plot twists in the vintage musical-within-the-musical, also called The Drowsy Chaperone, and dropping zingers about the personal foibles of the original cast.
Mark Ledbetter and Andrea Chamberlain have good chemistry and make a handsome, if improbable couple as Robert and Janet; Cliff Bemis channels his inner curmudgeon as Feldzieg; but James Moye steals the show with his flamboyant, larger-than-life impersonation of the ludicrous ladies’ man Aldolpho. Moye is simply hilarious.
TV star Georgia Engel adds a whimsical cameo as the wealthy Mrs. Tottendale, who hosts the Martin-Van De Graaff nuptials on her palatial estate; Robert Dorfman is a pip as the cheeky Underling, who carries our Mrs. Tottendale’s every wish, no matter how hare-brained; Richard Vida is good as Robert’s friend and best man George, and he and Ledbetter perform a scintillating tap-dance number together; Marla Mindelle is very funny as an ambitious chorine named Kitty, who desperately wants to replace Janet as the “Feldzieg’s Follies”; Fran Jaye is in fine voice as an aviatrix named Trix, who unexpectedly crashes (pun intended) the wedding; and Paul and Peter Riopelle are a scream as Gangster #1 and #2, two short, bearded Russian Jewish immigrants-turned-gangsters who persistently pressure Feldzieg to break up Janet and Robert. (The gangster’s boss, who has a sizable investment in “Feldzieg’s Follies,” stands to lose a bundle if Janet bolts the show.)
Music director Robert Billig, assistant director Casey Hushion, assistant choreographer Josh Rhodes, scenic designer David Gallo, co-lighting designers Ken Billington and Brian Monahan, costume designer Gregg Barnes, hair designer Josh Marquette, makeup designer Justen M. Brosnan, and sound designer Acme Sound Partners also do their best to make The Drowsy Chaperone sound and look like the cat’s meow. This energetic and highly amusing production of the five-time Tony Award® winner is a refreshing change-of-pace that deserves to play to full houses night after night.
Broadway Series South presents The Drowsy Chaperone Thursday-Friday, Feb. 14-15, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 16, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $38-$71. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060 or through presenter's website. Note: Arts Access, Inc., (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio-describe the 8 p.m. Feb. 16th performance. Student Ticket Special: Starting one hour before each performance, students with ID may buy any remaining tickets for $20 each at the Progress Energy Center Box Office. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/. The Tour: http://www.drowsychaperone.com/tour/tour_home.php. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=412774. James Moye: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=101530 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2435282/ (Internet Movie Database).