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The Ziegfeld Theater’s rendition of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is an energetic and irreverent success. Directed by Weber State University acting and directing student Trent Cox, the show features an eccentric old man that plays a record of his favorite musical: The fictitious 1920’s class “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“The Drowsy Chaperone” is a musical about an imminent wedding between a show girl and a wealthy business man and has side stories featuring a forgetful dowager, mobsters disguised as pastry chefs, a psychic that can only read her own mind and a European lover.
Throughout the musical The Man in Chair, as he is called in the program, praises or lambasts the different scenes of the musical making a critique of anything somewhat difficult.
Can you insult something that insults itself? The Man in Chair criticizes the terrible lyrics of a musical number, which truly are terrible, but then he, criticizing the inept writing, is redundant, since the show itself has already performed that function.
One could almost entertain the notion that the original writer had created a mostly good musical theater piece that had some flawed numbers and decided to add The Man in Chair to make those weaker scenes impervious to insult.
“The Drowsy Chaperone’s” eccentric old narrator performs his job perfectly. Yet the musical is too well-constructed for The Man in Chair to be an afterthought, and the bad scenes are too deliberately bad to be an accident. His heartfelt and personal soliloquies that reveal the loneliness and confusion someone his age, or any age for that matter, can experience are too raw and moving to be happenstance.
Furthermore, his inclusion in the end scene makes for a fantastic homage to the escapism of entertainment, which seems to be the point of the entire musical in the first place.
The combination of self-deprecations of the terrible scenes is also contrasted by self-congratulations of the stronger ones. The Man in Chair then becomes risky business instead of a shield because patting yourself on the back immediately preceding or following a number requires the assumption the scene was received exceptionally well by the audience.
When The Man in Chair says that the title character, The Drowsy Chaperone, delivers a powerhouse diva performance in the next number it creates a lot of expectation, much like an over-hyped movie.
Fortunately for the Ziegfeld and the audience, Becky Cole, who plays The Drowsy Chaperone, was more than equal to the task with her powerful vocals.
This strategy of telling the audience what to expect next worked well for most of the numbers and jokes as the cast was able to deliver on those promises. There were a few exceptions with the tap dancing prowess of the groom being somewhat lacking, but he also deserves commendation for being able to roller-skate around the stage while wearing a blindfold.
The comedy in the end made me laugh much more than I had expected to, and although I’m sad its run-time has ended I’m definitely looking forward to the Ziegfeld’s next show.