As a musical within a musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone” depends on an engaging narrator to keep the audience interested in the overlapping plot lines.
Luckily for audiences who see the production at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, award-winning actor David Schmittou is spot on in his reprisal of the role.
The fourth wall is broken from the show’s first scene, and Schmittou is a pro at engaging the audience without overdoing it, which might have been easy given the humor inherent in the script.
Billed only as “Man in the Chair,” Schmittou welcomes the audience to the show from the comfort of a stage-right armchair, telling attendees he’d like to share with them the score of his favorite musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
He then starts “The Drowsy Chaperone” cast recording on the record-player, and with a nostalgic crackle the show within a show comes to life on the stage, with Schmittou narrating each moment.
The notion that the action unfolding on stage is all imagined in Schmittou’s mind makes for some amusing moments — Schmittou pausing for additional commentary results in frozen actors on stage, for example, and a “scratch” on the record makes for a hysterical scene of awkwardly repeated dance moves and lyrics that mimic the malfunctioning record.
“The Drowsy Chaperone’s” inner plot isn’t particularly novel or entertaining; a successful actress is giving up the stage for the lover she plans to marry, much to the chagrin of the producer who put her name in lights and made money doing it.
There are the usual constructs of musical theater — a bit of mistaken identity here, a little side-plot love story there.
But Schmittou weaves the scenes together expertly, creating a character who goes beyond his lines with subtle gestures and facial expressions that add depth to a script that already lends itself to considerable comedy. Schmittou, who gives his opening monologue in the dark, had the audience in stitches before the lights ever came up on the stage.
Laura Douciere portrays Janet, the leading lady who is leaving behind her stage career for love. Douciere is likeable but plays the role of a melodramatic actress a bit too tamely, missing out on some moments that could have had the audience rolling in the aisles instead of chuckling lightly. She picks up steam in the second act, though, and is delightful during “Bride’s Lament,” the musical number in which she admits to having put her fiance on a pedestal.
Timothy Ford ably portrays romantic opposite Robert Martin, the mildly overconfident groom who enjoys looking at himself in the mirror as much as anything else.
The show highlights a variety of talented secondary actors as well; two gangsters disguised as pastry chefs (Craig Underwood and Sam McKanney) have several memorable scenes, and Kendra Lynn Lucas sings the roof off the place as “Trix,” the pilot who saves the day in the end.
Lucas’ vocals are stellar and will leave you wishing she had more than two scenes.
Alan Wager is delightfully ridiculous as Aldolpho, the stereotypical Latin lover whose attempt to seduce the bride and stall the nuptials results in a hysterical tango between him and the bride’s chaperone, portrayed by Victoria Weinberg.
Weinberg has the tall order of giving life to the title role — the drowsy chaperone who admits her exhaustion has little to do with work and everything to do with booze. She plays the part well, though she, too, could have given a bit more in some of the comedic scenes.
With its colorful costumers and upbeat dance numbers, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is certainly light-hearted enough to be considered a family-friendly show, but it also conceals just enough adult humor to keep all ages entertained.
The production runs through May 10 at Beef & Boards, 9301 Michigan Road, Indianapolis.
Noelle Steele is editor of the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.