“The Drowsy Chaperone” offers a sobering take on escapism


Charlie Foy

Portraying the character Janet Van De Graaff, junior Arden Dickson rehearses a scene from “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

It is only fitting that the most reflective moment of a frenzied 20-character musical came when all but one were frozen in place.

The Man in Chair (senior Dennis McMorrow) pauses, and for the first time in well over an hour, theatergoers could have heard a pin drop.

“Look, I know it’s not a perfect show. The spit take is lame and the monkey motif is labored, but none of that matters. It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world. It gives you a little tune to carry in your head, you know? A little something to help you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you’re feeling blue.”

“The Drowsy Chaperone” was unapologetically honest, a production with no intention to veil its blemishes. Ultimately, though, the Parkway West Dramatics Company honored the only promise it ever made to audiences: 90 minutes of escapism.

The show follows the Man in Chair’s meditations on a fictional musical also entitled “The Drowsy Chaperone” that he listens to on record in his 1928 apartment, the latest in a string of consistently excellent projects by the set construction crew.

McMorrow’s dry, fourth wall shattering humor willed the show through its opening scenes before a tap dance number (“Cold Feets”) from George (senior Charlie Foy) and Robert Martin (junior Ronan Ryan) infused much-needed energy into the performance.

Then it was Janet Van De Graaff’s (junior Arden Dickson) turn to own the stage, delivering the first of what quickly became several scintillating solos in “Show Off.” Adolpho (senior Zane Alshekhlee) and the Drowsy Chaperone (junior Clare Weaver) followed suit with one of the wittier songs of the afternoon (“Adolpho”) before the bombastic “Toledo Surprise” helped the show out of a back-half lull.

Admittedly, attempts at toggling between the “A” and “B” plotlines were at times choppy, reliant upon stagnant dialogue and the occasional coarse song-and-dance number, namely, “Message From a Nightingale.”

By the end, however, the production atoned for these hiccups and then some. The musical’s rousing conclusion juxtaposed otherworldly fantasy (“I Do, I Do in the Sky”) with an often bittersweet reality (“Finale Ultimo”) to send a total of 617 audience members home Feb. 7-9 pondering something much more profound than they could have anticipated.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “The Drowsy Chaperone” a 9.1/10.