Mid-valley audiences who come to "The Drowsy Chaperone" at Linn-Benton Community College starting this Friday will get a chance to see a play never shown in the area before.
That is, they'll get to see one man's idea of a play never shown in the area before. Nobody has ever actually seen the show at all, including the man himself.
Let's back up a little bit and explain.
"The Drowsy Chaperone," which earned 13 Tony nominations and took home five awards when it opened on Broadway in 2006, is a musical within a comedy within a wink and a nod to the audience.
It features a character known only as The Man in the Chair, who, whenever he's feeling a little down, will put on his favorite album. It's a recording of what is, ostensibly, a 1928 musical called, "The Drowsy Chaperone."
Then The Man sits back in his Chair and watches as the fictional musical comes to "life" around him, sharing his personal vision of how the characters look and behave with everyone sitting in the theater with him — along with his thoughts on how the story is unfolding.
Having never seen a production of the play to which he is listening, The Man is free to imagine the story however he might wish. That said, he wants the audience to see it just as he does.
"There's basically no fourth wall in this show," said Doug Moxley, who co-directs the show with Timothy Kelley.
"Chaperone" opens this week at the Russell Tripp Performance Center on the Albany campus of LBCC. Shows are at 7:30 on March 29 and 30 and April 5-6 and 12-13. Matinees at 2 p.m. will be performed March 31 and April 7 and 14.
Tickets are $14 for general admission and $11 for students. They are available online at tinyurl.com/getdrowsy or at the door starting 45 minutes before each show.
The show, as The Man (Bill Brown) presents it, opens as Broadway star Janet Van De Graaf (Drew Mat and Abigail Spear in a shared role) is getting ready to marry the man of her dreams, Robert Martin (Quentin Kirk). But this is a 1920s musical and there are, shall we say, complications.
There's Mr. Feldzieg, for instance (Jacob Birchard), the Broadway producer who wants to keep Janet from marrying so she won't quit his famous follies. There's the titular chaperone (Frankie Caswell), whose title of "drowsy" has a lot more to do with a fondness for Prohibition-era tippling than with actual sleepiness. And there's the happy couple themselves: The groom is nervous about this whole marriage business, and the bride, wondering if her man really loves her, devises a madcap scheme to see if his devotion might be swayed by a mysterious French girl.
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Oh, and there are a couple of gangsters. Disguised as pastry chefs.
"There's definitely a little Scooby-Doo in this show," Moxley said.
Moxley watched on TV as "Chaperone" received its Tony awards 13 years ago and thought to himself the show looked interesting. Then he had the chance to see it in Beaverton a few years later. What he saw impressed him so much he kept going back, bringing friend after friend. Other than that production, he's pretty sure the musical has never been performed in Oregon.
Kelley was one of the people Moxley convinced to listen to the soundtrack. Kelley was sold.
"I thought, 'oh my God, this is hilarious. We have to do this show,'" Kelley said. "From start to finish, it's just a hoot and a holler. It's something everyone can relate to, as an artist or coming off the street."
True to early musical form, audiences can expect to see big song-and-dance performances, including tap dancing. Carrie Forty, Ally Faber and Jessica Urey — also the assistant director — provided the choreography, while Ruth Drake and Sandee Ferguson took on costume duty.
"The characters are all stratospherically over the top," Moxley said. "It's a sendup of '20s, '30s musicals, when perhaps we weren't quite as refined in telling our stories."
If there's a deeper meaning, however, this show isn't the place to find it, the directors said.
"It's very much escapism. There's nothing serious about this show," Moxley said.
Even The Man in the Chair will tell you how important that is, Kelley said — because it was, in The Man's opinion, what old-school musicals were for.
"Life can be hard," Kelley said. "It's nice to have an escape from the day to day. I think this show will allow for that escape."