**** (Four stars)
A Packed House Gettin’ Drowsy on a Saturday Night
July 26, 2010, I drive up to the Zach-Scott theater only to pull into a lot already packed with cars 20 minutes to show time. A definite perk is the provided space for free parking, but after circling the lot, I hurry to find street parking nearby. Initially I think, ‘this is a show that everyone has come to see, so I’d better rush for my ticket!’ I walk up to the box office on one side to find “Becky’s New Car,” and realize there are two shows playing simultaneously this saturday eve. I’m not sure if this is a regular occurence, but the parking situation made sense in that regard. All the same, I easily found street parking nearby.
My enthusiasm for the show is encouraged once I enter the Kleberg stage, as it’s packed with patrons in their classy summer best. I make my way to Will Call for my ticket, to concessions for a drink, and then to my seat to get a little drowsy. Well, maybe not in the way you might think…
To say the least, “The Drowsy Chaperone” is an over-the-top musical for the modern patron yearning to revisit classic Broadway (from Vaudeville to audience interacting improv) entertainment in a venue where the performance is literally at your finger-tips.
The set design is warm and comfortable, which easily blurs the line between stage and living room. Visuals are beautiful with both set design and costumes to bring an authentic feel. Modern meets classical as we join our host, the Man in Chair (expertly performed by Martin Burke), and his journey to share his favorite 1928 musical in the comfort of his home. Burke’s character critiques theater from the perspective of a patron, delivers behind the scenes gossip of classic actors, and playfully dances upon hot topics; including but not limited to broad racial stereotypes on stage (which they’ve “banished to Disney”).
To highlight a particular favorite moment of mine, a costume change executed at the peak of the musical number “Show Off” by the stunning Janet Van de Graff (Jill Blackwood), while her Chaperone (Meredith McCall) takes continuous swigs of her champagne; a beverage that she claims makes her vey drowsy.
Singing and dancing performances (tap scene with Matthew Redden and Sean McGibbon), slapstick in true Vaudeville fashion, and comedic audience feedback improv exceed top expectations by this cast of seasoned actors.
However, this only leads to the intermission!
By the second act, the audience has plenty of time to stretch their legs, swing by concessions, and possibly a trip to the powder room. By this point, I’m pretty sure the entire audience is feeling a little drowsy.
Expecting much of the same that has already happily entertained, the audience is pleasantly surprised as the scenes are taken to a higher level of hilarity including: dancing monkeys, stolen kisses, plot twists, and more to help you determine your “right from left, and your left from wrong.” Not to be spoiled by my enthusiastic review, don’t miss this fun performance great for both the veteran theater-goer and new patrons to the stage alike.
A-Team and Greater Austin Creative Alliance Member