Joan Marcus
Robert Dorfman and Georgia Engel in "The Drowsy Chaperone," which continues through Sunday at the Capitol Theatre.
"THE DROWSY CHAPERONE," national tour, through Sunday, Capitol Theatre (355-2787); running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes (no intermission)

One of the first lines in "The Drowsy Chaperone" isn't one you'd exactly expect to hear delivered to a theater full of people who've paid good money to be there.

"I hate theater," says the Man in the Chair (Jonathan Crombie), as audience members laughed. Some of them somewhat nervously, perhaps.

As it turns out, the Man — the nameless narrator of sorts who guides us through the show — doesn't actually hate theater. He just hates theater that takes itself too seriously and fails to deliver on its promise.

"I just want to be entertained," he says.

And that's exactly what "The Drowsy Chaperone" does. Entertain.

It's sort of offbeat and goofy and over-the-top and silly, and there is no big message delivered in the end.

And it's anything but drowsy. It's fast-paced, bright, funny and — above all — entertaining.

The Man in the Chair is a huge fan of old musicals. Sitting in his dingy apartment, he tells the audience about his love for one particular musical — a 1928 production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."

(And, no, there wasn't really any such production.)

He pulls out his old LP of the show, puts it on his record player and the musical comes to life right there in his apartment.

Before you know it, there are production numbers bursting out all over the place, while the Man in the Chair (who does get out of the chair, by the way) is telling us all about not only the characters but the actors who played them.

(One of whom met a grisly fate that involved poodles.)

The story, such as it is, follows the romance of actress Janet Van De Graaff (Andrea Chamberlain) and handsome Robert Martin (Mark Ledbetter). There's a producer, Feldzieg (Cliff Bemis), who doesn't want to lose his star; a couple of goofy gangsters (Paul and Peter Riopelle) pretending to be pastry chefs; a ditsy woman, Mrs. Tottendale (Georgia Engel), who's hosting the wedding; and her trusted servant, Underling (Robert Dorfman).

There's Latin Lothario Aldolpho (James Moye); George the best man (Richard Vida); aspiring/airheaded starlet Kitty (Marla Mindelle); and aviatrix Trix (Fran Jaye), who literally drops out of the sky.

And the Drowsy Chaperone herself (understudy Alicia Irving stepped in on Wednesday) is a boozy broad — one of several stereotypes the show plays with.

The show-within-a-show musical is light, bright and pretty much meaningless. It resembles nothing so much as an old episode of "The Carol Burnett Show" — and that's high praise.

It's just, yes, entertaining to see cast members sing, dance, tap and roller skate their way through a dozen musical numbers.

Even watching the dingy apartment transformed into a magical set is fun. And the joy derived from the moment the record skips, the monkeys clanging cymbals and the power outage is ... well, you've got to see (and hear) it to believe it.

There are a few double-entendres and one four-letter word — Aldolpho has trouble pronouncing "ship" with his thick accent — but "The Drowsy Chaperone" is all in good fun.

Make that great fun.

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