Michael Betts and Tracy Lore in The Drowsy Chaperone
(© Alysa Brennan)
Michael Betts and Tracy Lore in The Drowsy Chaperone
(© Alysa Brennan)
The 3-D Theatricals production of The Drowsy Chaperone, now at the Plummer Auditorium, may be imperfect, but it spotlights the innate joy of this champagne of a musical.

A parody of the Gershwin/Princess Theater musicals of the 1920s, the show has an enchanting score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison -- ranging from toe-tapping numbers like "Cold Feet" to frothy love songs like "Accident Waiting To Happen" -- and an often hilarious book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, which comments on the early days of theater when joyous dance numbers thrilled audiences instead of landing helicopters and crashing chandeliers.

The show-within-a-show is narrated by the Man In Chair, played by Michael Betts, who walks the fine line between empathetic and pathetic. While he sometimes relies too hard on a nebbishy whine, the majority of the time, he embodies what drives the kind of true musical lover who tingles when the orchestra strikes up the overture.

The cast's main assets are Tracy Lore as the boozy title character, Nicole Manly as the ditzy blonde showgirl Kitty, and Carlos Martin as the campy lothario Adolfo. As leading lady Janet, Gail Bennett has quite a good time with her big number, "Show Off," but lacks the belting voice to shake the stage. As Robert, Joseph Sark has grace when he dances, but his singing -- especially of his high notes -- is far from ideal. The biggest disappointment is Sally Struthers, who gives a surprisingly unsubtle performance as the dingbatty, aristocratic Mrs. Tottendale.

The best facet of this production is Kami Seymour's choreography. Whether putting together a two-person tap display, or launching a rousing number with the entire cast, Seymour captures the moves of the period with ease.

Director T.J. Dawson has put together a mostly first-rate production team. The set by J Branson effortlessly converts a cluttered apartment into luxury suites within moments; the costumes by Sharell Martin are consistently witty, particularly those that convert quickly from one outfit to another for Bennett in her big number, and the cotton candy lighting by Steven Young, with pinks and purples that hit the curtains, brings sweet confection to the eyes.

The one major problem is that the sound is often muddy. When multiple people sing different lyrics at the same time and none of the lyrics are comprehensible, this champagne turns to swill.