Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 20, 2008

The Drowsy Chaperone

The Bushnell, Hartford
Through February 24
By Shera Cohen

This is an easy review to write. The hard ones are dramas and musical dramas, one-person plays and those with casts of thousands, avante garde and Shakespeare. “The Drowsy Chaperone” has none of the angst, tour-de-force performances, or difficult language found in any or all of the above categories.

The Bushnell has brought in a wonderfully energetic, humorous, oftentimes just plain stupid play with catchy tunes, tap and Charleston dance numbers, and one of the worst titles ever given a musical. It could have been titled “Aldolpho the Lothario” or “Man in Chair” for all it matters. The chaperone is simply the name of one of the roles in this ensemble production.

“DC” is a combination of Busby Burklee and Damon Runyon locked in the 21st century, but only sometimes when the record skips. Hmmm, that makes little sense. That’s exactly what “DC” is – a musical within a comedy (that phrase is taken from the playbill) abounding with froth, shtick, clich├ęs, and nonsense. What makes this musical unique from “Me and My Gal,” “The Boy Friend,” et al is its concept and format. Yes, readers of this review can google and discover the hidden gem that makes “DC” different and funnier than the norm, but our policy is not to “give it away.” It’s better for audience members to walk in unfamiliar with the book and the songs, and simply enjoy everything that happens for the next 90 or so uninterrupted minutes.

Everything is right about this musical – the cast of talented singers/comedians, small band that sounds like an orchestra, and strange sets that seem to come out of nowhere. Who would expect a dozen actors in 1920s costumes to walk out of the refrigerator? Expect for the narrator, the play is populated with caricatures, all played over-the-top, with not a bit of scenery left unchewed. The lyrics are distinct and oftentimes ridiculous (a love song about a monkey), there’s a tap dance on roller skates, cheesy costumes, lampooning of musical theatre, four weddings (no funeral), and Georgia Engel.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a delight. Expect no more.