Man in Chair (Ricky Graham) sits forlornly in an old armchair next to his record player. He's feeling blue — who wouldn't in that shabby apartment — so he engages in his favorite pastime: conjuring The Drowsy Chaperone, a 1928 musical comedy that's a product of his imagination. The show recently got a slam-bang production, co-produced by Theatre 13 and Jefferson Performing Arts Society, at the Westwego Performing Arts Center.
Man in Chair chats amusingly with the audience about many things, but mainly his treasured musical romance. When he puts on a record, the show comes alive.
Director Gary Rucker gathered a dynamite cast and put them skillfully through their paces. Kelly Fouchi starred as Janet Van De Graaf and created the deft choreography.
The term "drowsy" works as a euphemism for tipsy, and you get the feeling the playwrights may have been tipsy as well. Plot twists get knotted at a phenomenal rate, but not to worry, the narrator reminds us, musicals always end happily.
In the story, Janet falls in love with handsome young Robert Martin (Marc Fouchi) and they get engaged. Janet will retire from showbiz and leave her starring role in the Feldzieg Follies. But Feldzieg's (David Hoover) principal backer is a racketeer who dispatches two men (Matthew Mickal and Matias Grau III) to pressure Feldzieg into sabotaging the engagement.
The chaperone is supposed to keep the bride and groom from seeing each other on the day of the ceremony. At one point, the best man sets the groom off on roller skates, but blindfolds him so he won't see the bride. This illogical stunt leads to a contretemps, as the groom runs into his fiancee who pretends to be French. When he kisses her, she wallops him for being a cad.
But the matrimonial urge seems contagious. Mrs. Tottendale (Janet Shea) and her butler (Roland "Butch" Caire) realize class difference should not impede their feelings. The drowsy chaperone herself (Carrie Hill) succumbs to a hilariously pompous Spaniard (Brian Peterson) and even Feldzieg ties the knot with his dim-witted sweetheart Kitty (Carrie Black).
The show's dancing and singing achieved a high level, and it's hard to single out special numbers. Also impressive was a bit of stage magic when a biplane took off to carry the couples to Las Vegas. David Raphel's set and Adam Alonso's costumes were excellent. — Dalt Wonk