The original Broadway cast recording is the perfect appetizer and musical calling card for The Drowsy Chaperone’s North American tour. Much of the Man in Chair’s dialogue (rendered with pizzazz by co-writer Bob Martin) remains to be heard on stage, but there’s more than enough to glue the slight plot (relationship crisis threatens to ruin starlet’s 1928 wedding day) and engaging songs together without missing much of the action.
Vocally, Sutton Foster has the lungs, range and styling acumen to deliver a first-class portrayal of Janet Van de Graaff. “Show Off”—replete with a prima donna encore is a pleasure at every turn as the reluctant star spells out her desire to leave the limelight now that true love is hers. Robert (Troy Britton Johnson’s flexible tenor blends well with all comers, notably in “Cold Feets” where the allure of tap dancing and instrumental excellence—don’t miss the trombone/soprano sax duet—should further motivate a trip to the box office), the lucky groom brings a whole new meaning to “love is blind.” “Accident Waiting to Happen” has the lovers prove their infidelity with a wayward kiss (you have to be there), but falters when Janet—disguised as Mimi—fails to inflect her voice with even a trace of her trumped-up French fakery (sadly, the second of the bonus tracks, “Message From a Nightingale” errs too far the other way in a largely tasteless parody of Asians speaking English).
The perpetually forgetful Mrs. Tottendale has the ideal protagonist in Georgia Engel’s numbers. “Love Is Always Lovely in the End” has a Monty-Python-like lyric and quick one-liners (“Oh, I never read reviews” she replies after her more-than-faithful butler, the delightfully named Underling—Edward Hibbert—reminds his mistress that “Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy”) that are tossed off with deceptive ease by Engel; but her showstopper is the bonus track (“I Remember Love”) where she uproariously breaks into some loving scat while Hibbert “boms” the bass and a Tiny Tim ukulele works the changes. More, please.
The chorus acquits itself well, sparingly used to heighten the old-style charm of musicals that serve as excuses to break into song and dance and feature plot points that only showbiz could allow: the airplane’s unexpected landing to save the day being a prime example of writing out of any corner to save the day.
Finally, those with a penchant for nonsensical lyrics (“Oh monkey, monkey, monkey / You broke my heart in two / But I’ll always save that pedestal for you”) that incredibly make a subliminal point by song’s end (“Bride’s Lament”), will delight in these tracks.
Thanks to the creativity of the artistic trust and the talent of the cast, musicals are fun, energetic and silly again. JWR