top of page
  • Heather Osteraa

Nostalgic Parody, The Drowsy Chaperone, A Frothy Valentine to Musical Theatre’s Past

Glitz, glamour, and a ‘recipe’ for meta-musical euphoria

When a die-hard musical theatre fan, known only as Man in Chair, puts on a record of the cast recording of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, an extravagant 1920’s fantasy unfolds in the middle of his living room. A loving send-up of the frivolous, inconsequential musicals of the Jazz Age, The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical comedy within a musical comedy! Mix in a starlet who gives up the stage for love, her groom-to-be, a frazzled best man, a forgetful hostess, a misguided Don Juan, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, and an intoxicated chaperone, and you have the ingredients for an evening of madcap delight.

The Drowsy Chaperone performs in the Mainstage Theater November 10 – December 8, 2018. Hartnell College, Building K, 411 Central Ave. Salinas, CA.

The show begins with Man in Chair bemoaning what he hates about attending the theater. “Please let it be a good show. And let it be short, oh Lord in heaven…and keep the actors out of the audience.” Immediately, the fourth wall is shattered as Man in Chair continues to explain that when he’s feeling blue, he listens to one of his favorite records.

The Drowsy Chaperone, the musical within the comedy, takes as its model – albeit exaggerated – one of the hundreds of musical comedies that dominated the Broadway stage of the 1920’s, one of the most prolific periods in Broadway’s history; wherein, roughly 50 musicals would open in any given season. Compare that to today where 10 musicals might open on Broadway in a season. The Drowsy Chaperone begins with the lovers, Janet van de Graaf, former star of the Feldzieg (yes, you read that right) Follies, and Robert Martin, who have gathered with their friends at the estate of a wealthy dowager to be married. Feldzeig fears that his producing career is ruined if he loses his leading lady and sets out to sabotage the wedding. His intentions are shared by an anonymous investor, who sends two gangsters (disguised as pastry chefs) to make sure Feldzieg follows through with his plan. Meanwhile, a case of mistaken identity leads to lasting love between the eccentric Adolpho, the self-proclaimed King of Romance, and Janet’s inebriated chaperone. Many more comedic moments ensue between Mrs. Tottendale, the forgetful dowager and her long suffering butler; Kitty, the chorus girl, determined to become a star; and George, the best man responsible for it all.

All the while, Man in Chair sits nearby, watching the action intently, interjecting informational tidbits about the lives of the actors playing the characters from the album. Occasionally, his fantasy is interrupted by reality – ringing phones, a power outage, a visitor – and he must try to resume the fictional world of The Drowsy Chaperone.

The concept of The Drowsy Chaperone originated in 1997, when Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, and several friends created a spoof of old musicals for the stag party of actors Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf (a Canadian improv artist and television actor). In its first incarnation, there was no Man in Chair, the musical styles ranged from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, and the jokes were more risqué. When the show was reshaped for the Toronto Fringe Festival, Martin became a co-writer, creating Man in Chair to serve as a narrator/commentator for the piece. Following the Fringe staging, further development led to a full-scale version at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre. Interest from New York producers led to an out-of-town engagement in Los Angeles in 2005 and culminated in its Broadway debut in 2006.

It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, and won five, including Best Book and Best Original Score.

TWS Artistic Director Jon Selover directs, Joe Niesen co-directs / choreographs, and Don Dally directs music. Scenic design is by Theodore Michael Dolas; costume design by

Rhonda Kirkpatrick; hair and makeup design by Maegan Roux; lighting design by Derek Duarte; and sound design by Jeff Mockus.

This event is wheelchair accessible. Individuals requiring sign-language interpreters, real-time captioners, or other accommodations should contact the Box Office at least one week prior to the event: 831-755-6816

**The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Western Stage**

12 views0 comments


bottom of page