Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

The (Not So) Drowsy Apple

Posted June 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm

by June LeBell

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We went to the opening of The Golden Apple’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” the other night and, contrary to some silly pre-conceived ideas I walked in with, I didn’t have one even remotely drowsy moment.

This “Musical within a Comedy,” is a charming story about “The Man in the Chair,” as he’s called in the program, who invites us (the audience) into his home to listen to one of his favorite recordings. As he slips the needle onto the vinyl disc (remember those?), the crackles and pops take us back to an era we no longer live in and into a silly but wonderfully refreshing early 20th century musical about a couple with wedding plans and the people who attempt to thwart their marriage.

Having worked with Duncan Pirnie, WQXR’s chief announcer and punster-par-excellence, I am particularly fond of words on turns and “The Drowsy Chaperone” has enough to make Duncan proud.

In fact, there’s something for everyone in this slightly off-kilter musical. For me, it was the puns and the chord the M.I.T.C. struck when he pulled himself out of his funk and played one of his favorite records for his friends. How many, many times have I done that — at home and on the radio? Listen to this! Do you hear that? Isn’t that wonderful?!

And, miraculously, for the Man and for me, the singers and dancers on the recording come alive as we sing along, dance with them and they inhabit our home, studio and lives.

The cast, which features Michael Bajjaly as the Man in the Chair, with Berry Ayers, Lauren Clark, Erik Emmerson,Scott Vitale, Roberta MacDonald, Brian Minyard, Ellie Pattison, and Kyle Turoff in a well-cast Drowsy Chaperone, is funny and clever. They sing and dance about as well as the silly old record plays — and that’s enough to have us chortling and, at times, howling with laughter.

The Golden Apple is a bit tarnished these days. The food isn’t as plentiful; the plates seem smaller; there seem to be fewer people on the wait staff; and the actors are kind of home-spun and there’s probably not an Equity card in the house. It’s turned into a sort of pseudo-community dinner theater, and even the walls seem to shout three mortgages! Help!

But, after all these years, it would be a shame to fold this iconic elephant of entertainment. Let’s hope the powers that be can think outside the black-box of theatrical trauma and come up with a solution that will either save it or reinvent it.

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