Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Drowsy Chaperone

A Musical Within A ComedyThe drowsy chaperone at marriott theatre

Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison

Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar

Directed & Choreographed by Marc Robin

Musical Director Doug Peck

At Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, IL

Style and laughs fuel The Drowsy Chaperone

The Drowsy Chaperone was first “great” Broadway musicals of the 21st Century!  Under Marc Robin’s slick staging and expert choreography, with his brilliant cast – lead by James Harms as the Man in Chair, with the fabulous Tyler Hanes and Tari Kelly – Marriott Theatre’s in-the-round stage enhanced the intimacy and charm of the musical. Robin’s production exceeded the National Tour (which I also adored.) This is one of the finest shows Marriott Theatre has produced in the last few years.

The drowsy chaperone at marriott theatre

I see how The Drowsy Chaperone won 5 Tony’s in 2006—for Best Book (Bob Martin and Don McKellar); Best Original Score (Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison); Best Scenic Design (David Gallo).  The show is fresh and honest.

This unique musical is an ode to those old 1920’s musicals that were light on plot and heavy on comedy, with rousing music with catchy rhythms and loads of up-tempo dances and several “take-home” songs you’ll be humming for a while. The Drowsy Chaperone is long on exuberance and showstoppers. It is a musical-inside-a comedy. It is far more than an era piece or simply a fake musical. Besides being a fully original musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, contains a contemporary framework: an iconic character—a pure musical theater queen whose life revolves around Broadway musicals. This guy, ‘Man in Chair’ narrates and comments on the action as he entices us to escape the blues of our lives with him as he drops the needle on the LP of his favorite show—The Drowsy Chaperone. Wow, his dreary apartment explodes into a colorful set as the show comes to life.

The drowsy chaperone at marriott theatre

Man in Chair, played with much empathy, charm and comic aplomb by James Harms, has many stinging barbs as Harms breaks the fourth wall and hooks us into the fantasy of pure old-time Broadway. It is refreshing to witness new tunes and hilarious bits with the accurate flavor depicting classic musicals motifs.

Of course, the formula of a classic Broadway musical necessitates a big initial dance number to introduce us to all the stock players. “Fancy Dress” does that nicely.   The Drowsy Chaperone is tale of a pampered Broadway starlet, Janet Van De Graff (the talented triple-threat, Tari Kelly), who wants to give up show biz to get married to pretty boy, Robert Martin (Tyler Hanes who taps up a storm). Her producer, Feldzieg (the goofy David Lively) plots to sabotage the wedding plans with a wacky Latin lover, Aldolpho (Adam Pelty in hilarious turn). We meet the dizzy chorine, a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs are played by real-life twins – Alexander and Adrian Aguilar – doing their best vaudevillian routines.

Martin and his best man, George (Andy Lupp) land a smart tap number that stops the show in “Cold Feet.” Hanes and Lupp reminded me of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ In the Rain. Next, Janet dazzles in the ambitious, colorful and terrifically staged ensemble number “Show Off.” Keep in mind the Man in Chair comments on the scenes, the actors and songs in the true spirit of a theatre queen turned musical trivia expert.

The chaperone (the wonderful diva Linda Balgord), a drunken Ethel Merman type performs her trade mark anthem in the funny “As We Stumble Along.” The idiot Aldolpho storms on stage in all bravado with the tango “I Am Aldolpho.” Of course, we need cute love duet so why not have a blind-folded Robert, on roller skates, meet his girl posing as a French lady? Result: “Accident Waiting to Haven” that hints as a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers dance tune in the style of Gershwin or Berlin.

We must have a vaudeville big dance number and “Toledo Surprise” sure pleases. We must have a “Wife’s Lament” as Janet decides to stop the wedding. But Man in Chair comments that the show must have a happy ending so “Love Is Always Lovely in the End” and “I Do, I Do in the Sky” are performed. The show ends with a reprise of “As We Stumble Along.” Several marriages result.

There are a few surprises as this clever show keeps the laughs coming. You’d be hard pressed to see a finer sung, danced and staged musical. The lovable Jim Harms offers the winningly honest framework and loads of wit as Man in Chair. We grow to love this show as much as he does. The show was glorious entertainment proving that musicals are much more than a name—this Drowsy Chaperone is wonderful. Marc Robin’s choreography and staging is first class.  Nancy Missimi’s costumes are vividly splendid and Doug Peck’s musical direction captured the 20’s Jazz Era style to perfection. Patti Garwood’s orchestra sounded terrific. Don’t let the name fool you – The Drowsy Chaperone is a new, smart Broadway musical in the classical 1920’s style. It is a treasure of high comedy and stylish song and dance. You’ll love it. Kudos to Marc Robin and the creative team at Marriott Theatre for mounting such a fine show. Don’t miss it!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At The Marriott Theatre, located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire. The show runs 2 hours 20 minutes with intermission. Performances are Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.and 5 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $48 and there are student and senior discounts available on Wednesday and Sunday matinees. Dinner packages are available. Call the box office at 847-634-0200 or visit

(NOTE: The below video is from the National Tour:

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