Joan Marcus
Georgia Engel and Robert Dorfman star in "The Drowsy Chaperone." The "musical within a comedy" won five Tonys in 2006.

Picture a CD (or better yet, a vinyl record if you're old enough) that takes you back — a piece of music that takes you on a journey. That's sort of what "The Drowsy Chaperone" is about.

"I usually say it's half of a fluffy 1920-type musical and half stand-up routine," says Lisa Lambert, composer and lyricist for the "musical within a comedy" that opens in Salt Lake City Wednesday and runs through June 29.

Meet Man in Chair, a "sad, funny guy who lives alone and puts on a record of his favorite musical for the audience," Lambert explains. Man in Chair's favorite musical happens to be "The Drowsy Chaperone."

As the music begins, the characters come to life in his sparse apartment. "Imagine a '20s musical narrated by a really funny modern character," Lambert said.

Difficult to explain, perhaps, but absolutely delightful.

"People say, 'Oh you look like you're having so much fun.' And I do have to laugh and we are having fun," said Georgia Engel, who plays Mrs. Tottendale in the touring show. Engel is perhaps best known for playing Georgette on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

"It truly has been really fun going around the country because every city, whether it's a sophisticated theater city or not, they all seem to love it, which is very gratifying."

"The Drowsy Chaperone" has been a gratifying surprise from the beginning. The show is the brainchild of a group of friends out of Toronto, Canada. "We had been writing these kind of pastiche musicals," said Lambert, who noted "Drowsy" was a wedding gift for friends Bob and Janet (two of the characters in the show).

When a friend encouraged them to enter it into the Fringe of Toronto Festival, "people were lined up around the block," and the whirlwind began. One success led to a few more revisions and a step up in venue, until one day, a call from Broadway. "In some ways that was the most exciting point — when it was clear that it could actually happen."

And happen, it did. Winning five Tony Awards, the most of any musical in 2006, "Drowsy" was billed as the first, completely original musical in a long, long time.

"The Tonys were a little bit wild," Lambert said. "After we won the award, they led us through Radio City. One of the memories I have is of the cast of 'The Wedding Singer' waiting to go on stage. They all started applauding in this really sweet, supportive way. I'll always remember Boy George clapping," she said laughing.

Engel, who moved to the tour after originating the role of Tottendale on Broadway, has been pleased with the quality of this production. "We have such a magnificent touring company. We put the same amount of time and energy into the tour as on Broadway. It's a wonderful company and to give you an example, while we're in Salt Lake, our director is coming in to spruce us up and keep things fresh."

Lambert agrees. "The tour is great ... Bob Martin (original Man in Chair and co-creator) hand picked his replacement, and Jonathan Crombie is actually a really good friend of ours. So he's been part of this whole world from the beginning."

With her Tony Award on her mom's mantle, Lambert says, "It's been the most amazing ride and the whole country seems to have really taken to it. Don't miss it!"

If you go ...

What: The Drowsy Chaperone, national tour

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Wednesday through June 29

How much: $20-$60

Phone: 355-2787

Web: www.arttix.org or www.drowsychaperone.com/tour/tour_home.php


E-mail: [email protected]