Welk Theater: ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

"The Drowsy Chaperone" wakes up Welk Theater/Courtesy

“Oh dear God, please let it be a good show. I just want a story and a few good songs,” says Man in Chair at the top of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and I was silently saying “amen” to that right up front.

The Man (Vincent Pasquill), a shy depressive in a shapeless brown cardigan, plays an LP of his favorite musical – 1928’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” – whenever he gets blue. That would be now. As the music plays, the characters arrive, Man’s apartment becomes the Morosco Theater and the show starts. Man in Chair will be our tour guide.

Musical comedy fans should get a kick out of this 90-minute show with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar because it’s a parody of the form, style and typical characteristics of the Broadway musical.

Premiere Productions presents “The Drowsy Chaperone” – the 2006 winner of five Tonys – through Aug. 27 at Welk Resorts in Escondido. Ray Limon, director and choreographer extraordinaire, does the honors here as well.

Our guide defines a musical as a show with “two-dimensional characters and a well-worn plot, which is nothing but a frame to hang the songs on.”

“At the time,” he tells us, “the stage was the only place stupid people could make a living. But that was before television.” Then he illustrates with his favorite show.

Begun as a sketch for Martin’s bachelor party, the show includes standard characters like a dizzy blonde, a Latin lover, a vapid leading man, a couple of vaudevillians and two gangsters masquerading as pastry chefs.

Oh, and let’s not forget the two best characters: first, Dorothy Parker, er, the Drowsy Chaperone (played with great style by Lisa Dyson), who sings, Parker-style, “Keep your eyeball on the highball in your hand.” And Trix the aviatrix (“known today as a lesbian”), whom Justin High plays to the hilt, with terrific voice and stage presence.

The plot has Broadway star Janet Van de Graaff (Ashlee Espinosa) about to abandon the stage to marry Robert Martin (Aaron Shaw) because “I don’t wanna change keys no more; I don’t wanna striptease no more” (and then this plaint evolves into a big production number).

But the gangster/pastry chefs are there to make sure producer Feldzig (get it?) keeps Janet in the immensely successful show, since their boss has invested in it.

Meanwhile, dizzy blonde actress Kitty (Kylie Molnar) has her eye on both Janet’s role and Feldzig. Along for the ride are wedding hostess of a certain age Mrs. Tottendale (Robin La Valley) and her servant known only as Underling (Doug Friedman); best man George (Patrick MacDonald, a terrific tap dancer) and aforementioned Latin lover Aldolpho, played hilariously over-the-top in looks and actions by Alex Allen.

This is a large and talented cast, and though I would wish for a live orchestra and a Man in Chair with rather better diction (Pasquill tended to rush at times on opening night), there’s no doubt that “The Drowsy Chaperone” is fun to watch.

Bravo to Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis of Premiere Productions for another watchable show (look for some terrific costumes), and to director Limon for both keeping the action moving and for his always inspired choreography.

The details

“The Drowsy Chaperone” plays through August 27, 2017 at Welk Resort Theatre, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm

Tickets: (888) 802-7469.


Jean Lowerison is SDGLN theatre critic. By agreement, The Grapevine publishes her reviews of regional productions. For more, visit http://bit.ly/1QW7gnw.

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