Houston’s Masquerade Theater has been bringing productions to the stage for over 14 years. In it’s last night of performance, I had the pleasure of seeing the production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and I was more than pleasantly surprised. The story, although lacking in plot, was whimsical and simply happy. The characters brought a smile to my face and the songs that paid homage to musicals of the 20’s, literally kept me on the edge of my seat. Oh what a night it was. “When I’m sitting in the dark I pray. Dear God… please let it be short,” the Man in Chair says in his opening monologue. As the show opens, I was very surprised how comfortable I suddenly became with sitting in the dark as a complete stranger began talking. Actor Luther Chakurian, brought the Man in Chair to the audience as a gitty, fun loving musical theater nerd that simply longs for the days of Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin. Chakurian put a smile on my face every time he opened his mouth. He is the only character in the show that doesn’t get to showcase his beautiful tenor voice every 5 minutes, which was a complete disappointment. When I did hear him in the finale, he was impressive and sweet. As each of the characters were introduced, it didn’t take long to pick and choose my favorites. Another one of my favorites had to be the Drowsy Chaperone portrayed by the wonderful Kristina Sullivan who had the funniest, wittiest one-liners that gave the show an edge. For example, before the song, “Show Off,” she asks during a small press conference “Why… would they put olives in a Gibson?” And again after the song she says, “Did I miss something?” Although, pretending to be “drowsy” doesn’t seem like one of the most challenging acting skills, her subtle presentation made it believable. But it was her delivery that really made the entire show worth every hysterical moment. It’s always hard going to see a new show without having first listened to it but taking a chance on this one was a really good idea. With songs like “Cold Feet,” “Show Off,” “As We Stumble Along,” and “Toledo Surprise,” writers Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison did an excellent job of taking us back to the 20’s and the themes of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. They wanted to pay homage to the great musicals of that time and with those elaborate arrangements and orchestrations and overly exaggerated numbers, they would’ve made those composers proud. One song in particular that managed to be hysterical and make me feel completely uncomfortable was “Aldolpho.” Perhaps it was the very successful presentation of the womanizer by actor Luke Wrobel, but something was telling me that it also had something to do with the lyrics. “Now let me spell it out for you, for all you lovely ladies that didn’t hear for some reason, because maybe you are hard of hearing or something- I don’t know.” Those lines combined with the overly awkward and not so attractive womanizer rolling his hips and grinding the air, was really more than a laugh out loud moment. The theme of the show become more and more clear as the show goes on. Chakurian as the Man in Chair states, “The glory of musical theater,” is about being taken away from reality and put in a reality that places a permanent smile on your face. The show was a wonderful example of the die-hard theater fan and his love for a show that makes absolutely no sense. The book writers, Bob Martin and Don McKellar, did a wonderful job keeping the story true to life and up to date with the current times. For example, there is a part in act one where the Man in Chair is explaining how in the 20’s a “gay wedding” just meant “FUN!” verses a same sex marriage and moreover, how the word “gay” really meant something completely different. Martin and McKellar really put a reality spin on this, musical about a musical, story-line. At the end of the night, I was convinced that Masquerade Theater had done it again. With an impressive and harmonious cast including, Rebekah Dahl, Eric Edwards, Michael J. Ross, Adam Delka, Evan Tessier, Libby Evans and Laura Gray (along with others), The Drowsy Chaperone was a delight. It was a fun and exciting performance full of beautiful choreography, presentation and comedy. BRAVA!
November 28, 2010