“The Drowsy Chaperone,” CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, Mondays–Saturdays through March 31 at 7:30 p.m., $17-$20, 801-298-1302 or centerpointtheatre.tix.com
CENTERVILLE — “The Drowsy Chaperone” does just what a musical should do: It provides an escape from the humdrum realities of our daily lives to “a world full of color and music and glamour."
Retro but completely original, “Chaperone” is a loving parody of the cardboard characters from Depression-era musicals. At CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, the show is a colorful musical spectacle. A near full-size airplane lands on stage to whisk all the newlyweds off to Carnival in Rio. Invading the stage is a seemingly miles-long Chinese parade dragon. The two-story set with its grand staircase impresses with its sheer scale and flexibility. The costumes are bright and cheery.
Doug Caldwell, in CenterPoint’s rotating cast, is a relaxed Man in Chair, the narrator onstage for the length of the evening. He’s also our musical-obsessed host in his single-room apartment. He’s never seen the big Broadway musical he’s conjured before the audience but knows its every line. On his vintage record player he spins “The Drowsy Chaperone” cast album — the two-record set, remastered from the original recording made in 1928.
Caldwell makes Man in Chair a jovial player in the imaginary cast, rather than “a very complicated person.” To enrich the character with all of the script’s humor, Man in Chair needs to be an oddball agoraphobic loner who endears through his unabashed embrace of his eccentric singular obsession.
Like Man in Chair, the characters in “Chaperone” should have a winking awareness of their caricatures, in on the parody but without slapstick. Director Maurie Tarbox displays devotion to “Chaperone,” but it doesn’t appear flash cards were available to replicate all of the truly engaging characterizations. Also, the actors suffer from the lagging, ponderous pace between each charmingly written show tune.
An exception is Kate Rufener, as Chaperone, maid of honor, friend, confidant (and all that rot). She stands out with her comic asides to the audience and wholehearted dedication. Her rousing anthem, “As We Stumble Along,” is a high point of the show.
As Aldolpho, Danny Inkley is consistent with his buffoonish humor but, as the self-proclaimed king of romance, without the magnetism of a Lothario.
The performers in teeny-tiny roles impress. Julie Silvestro Waite has strong vocals and a winning personality. She plays Trix the Aviatrix, who here is a feminist rather than the funnier descriptor in the script. Tragically, Silvestro Waite only makes a brief appearance at the show’s conclusion after a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her introduction in the light opening tune, “Fancy Dress.” (One hopes she has good reading material backstage.)
With a bit more time on stage is Michael Nielsen as Underling to Carol Thomas’ Mrs. Tottendale. Nielsen's spit-takes and patient exasperation are hilarious.
Playing oil tycoon Robert Martin, the blindfolded, roller-skating “Accident Waiting to Happen,” Greg Dowse is broadly enthusiastic. He is trumped in eagerness by Kurt Christensen as Best Man George. In the role of Janet Van De Graaff, the “I Don’t Wanna Show Off” Vaudeville star, Michelle Robbins is earnest to show off.
Dennis W. Larsen, Spencer Lawson, Chantryce Diehl and Shelby Thomas are the hardworking ensemble dancers in Susan DeMill’s puzzling choreography.
In the end, Trix the Aviatrix sings “I Do, I Do in the Sky” to the six lovebirds. Robert marries Janet, Aldolpho marries Chaperone, Underling marries Mrs. Tottendale and the scheming theater producer Feldzieg (Brandon Rufener) marries the ditzy chorine Kitty (Erin Crouch). And the audience merrily exits.
As Man in Chair proclaims, “What more do you need for an evening’s entertainment?”
Advisory caution: brief references to alcohol