“The Drowsy Chaperone”

Novello Theatre, London • 3 August 2007 • 7:45pm
Music & lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison. Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar.

Directed & choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. With Steve Pemberton (Man in Chair), Summer Strallen (Janet Van De Graaff), John Partridge (Robert Martin), Elaine Paige (The Drowsy Chaperone), Joseph Alessi (Adolpho), Nick Holder (Feldzeig), Selina Chilton (Kitty), ? (Mrs. Tottendale), Nickolas Grace (Underling), Sean Kingsley (George), Adam Stafford & Cameron Jack (Gangsters), Enyonam Gbesemete (Trix). [Other audience members’ programmes had an insert with the cast list for the performance. Mine didn’t. It was obvious Mrs. Tottendale was not played by Anne Rogers, and there could have been other understudies without my noticing it.]

When I saw The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway with Bob Martin himself, I reflected that the show relied a lot on the ability of Man in Chair to take us with him into that enchanted world where light-hearted shows, albeit no masterpieces, help make life less difficult when one feels blue. Steve Pemberton, who took over from Bob Martin in this London production, does that superbly. His take on Man in Chair makes the show deeply poignant, especially in the end.

Drowsy is about to close close after two-and-a-half months. Maybe it isn’t that surprising that such a self-referential and somewhat specialist show finds it difficult to touch a wide audience, all the more as the score, although a good pastiche of 1920s music, contains few outstanding numbers. Beside, I couldn’t help thinking that this British version is too broad on the comedic front. Too loud, too farcical, too much mugging. The show doesn’t require that. On the contrary, it kills some of its charm.

But, thanks to Pemberton’s deeply-felt performance, I had a wonderful time, probably even more than on Broadway.

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