Bob Martin and his wife, former Utahn Janet Van De Graaff, were in Salt Lake City this weekend for a holiday visit. If you've seen the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone," their names may be familiar.
The show, which opened in April 2006 in the Marquis Theatre in New York City, has its origins in a wedding skit, which was written by friends for Bob and Janet on the occasion of their 1998 marriage in Toronto. (They met there while performing as part of the Second City comedy troupe.)
The national touring production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" is scheduled to play in the Capitol Theatre next year, during the last week of June, as part of NewSpace Entertainment's "Broadway Across America" season.
The Martins' real wedding in the Victoria College Chapel in Toronto was nothing like the out-of-control event in the play, they explained during an interview in the NewSpace offices. "The original concept, a half-hour musical skit, was created by a bunch of our friends for our 'stag-and-doe' party before we got married," said Bob. "All of our friends are writers."
Over the next eight years, the comic skit grew into a one-act musical about a Broadway starlet (Janet) who wants to marry and give up performing onstage.
Actually, Janet grew up in Chicago, where her Utahn father studied and later practiced dentistry. Janet graduated in 1988 from Brigham Young University, where she performed in several productions.
When she and Bob met in 1966, Janet was performing in her last "Second City" production, and it was Bob's first. Something "clicked" right away, said Bob. "We knew we had chemistry."
They married two years later and are now the parents of Harrison, a 4 1/2-month-old boy.
Will Harrison follow his folks into theater? "He has a very expressive face," said Janet.
Although Bob does most of his work in New York City, they live in Toronto because it seems to be "a more humane place to live," at least for now.
While "Drowsy Chaperone" won the Tony Award for best musical in 2006, Bob also received a Tony for collaborating on the script and was also nominated for a Tony for his role as "Man in Chair."
The "Man in Chair" doesn't have a given name, but the show is set in his cramped Manhattan apartment, where he is addicted to listening to cast recordings of old musicals. The show starts when he drops the needle on his favorite LP a recording of a 1928 musical called "The Drowsy Chaperone."
Bob's friend Jonathan Crombie is currently playing "Man in Chair" on the national tour, with Andrea Chamberlain as Janet. Georgia Engel known for her role as Georgette on TV's "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and more recently as a recurring character on "Everybody Loves Raymond" played Mrs. Tottendale on Broadway, and she's playing the same role in the touring show.
Twins Paul and Peter Riopelle, who have both performed at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, will portray Gangsters 1 and 2 in the touring show.
"The 'Man in Chair' has no name," said Bob. "He only comes alive when he listens to his records, and you learn about his life as the show progresses." He added that the show "was a true collaboration."
Co-writers Bob and Don McKellar, and lyricist-composer Lisa Lambert, have known each other since they were 15. "We grew up in the same Toronto neighborhood." Another friend, Greg Morrison, who was part of the "Second City" experience, later joined the team as composer-lyricist.Martin said that the show itself has a relatively small ensemble. "Part of the roots of the show came from all of us being comedians, and that's kind of how the show was written in reaction to the big shows from the '70s, like 'Miss Saigon."'
E-mail: [email protected]